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Saturday, December 27, 2008

IDF Spox: Israeli Communities within Range of Rocket Fire - Emergency Instructions for Civilian Population

IDF Spokesperson Dec 27th, 2008

Israeli Communities within Range of Rocket Fire - Emergency Instructions for Civilian Population

The firing of rockets at Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip is expected to continue over the next few days, and may expand to additional area.  Therefore, residents are requested to follow directions for preparing a protected room and act in accordance with the instructions at the sound of an alarm, an explosion, or a "Color Red" alert.

Residents of villages adjacent to the security fence are asked to remain within shelters tomorrow, in close proximity to protected areas, and are requested not to assemble in groups.

All schools and commercial centers will remain closed, with the exception of vital services, such as medical centers, grocery stores and public transit will operate on a limited schedule.

Residents in the rest of the villages within range of up to ten km of the Gaza security fence are directed to ensure that they are no more than
fifteen seconds from a protected area.  Public gatherings in this perimeter are forbidden.

Residents of towns in the range of ten to twenty kilometers from Gaza, must be able to enter sheltered areas within thirty seconds.  This area includes the cities of Ashkelon, Netivot and the surrounding towns. In these towns, gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed to be held only under reinforced ceilings. Commercial activity will only be allowed to take place in reinforced buildings.

Residents of towns in the range of twenty to thirty kilometers from Gaza, must be able to enter sheltered areas within forty-five seconds, and  gatherings of up to 500 people are allowed to be held only under reinforced ceilings..  This area includes the cities of Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Mal'achi, Ofakim, Rahat, and the surrounding towns. Educational activity will take place in reinforced buildings only. Commercial activity will only be allowed to take place in reinforced buildings.

A number of important issues for the population:

The Home Front command has advised the local authorities to open the public shelters. Entrance to the shelters is advised only if they are reachable within the aforementioned time frames.

Gatherings near rocket attack sites should be avoided. Unidentified objects and rockets should not be approached. In such instances the police should be notified.

Adhering to these guidelines and entering sheltered rooms - saves lives.

Additional information can be obtained via the Home Front Command's hot line 1207 and website:

Continued (Permanent Link)

Another reminder: Persecution of Christians in Muslim lands

Indeed, media have not paid much attention to persecution of Christians in Muslim lands (see for example Bethlehem under the Zionist Yoke ).

Mainstream Media Seems Indifferent To Persecution Of Christians

By Herb Denenberg, The Bulletin
Published: Friday, December 26, 2008
This column has devoted more space to the subject of the worldwide persecution of Christians than the rest of the mainstream media put together. That's easy, as the mainstream media, and for that matter most of the Western media, have ignored this story, one of the most important of our time.

I find it remarkable that not only the mainstream media virtually ignores the story, but also major Christian denominations and their leadership seem almost indifferent to the persecution of Christians worldwide. And don't assume it is a small or isolated problem. It is truly a worldwide problem impacting millions. I found this surprising, but the persecution of Christians in the twentieth century exceeded all previous centuries.

Persecution of Christians has several other layers of importance. First, much of it involves Muslims and the Stealth Jihad, which now challenges the very existence of Western civilization. Second, Christian persecution shows how we have failed to guarantee basic human rights in so many areas of the world. Third, when we tolerate religious or other persecution of one group, we put all of us at risk.

The great German pastor, Martin Nieomoller, was right in his famous poem when he said we better speak up early on, because if we don't pretty soon there will be no one left to speak up for us. In other words, it pays to face down religious persecution for both altruistic and selfish reasons.

The problem of persecution of Christians first caught my attention when I read an article in the Jerusalem Post by Lela Gilbert, author of the book, Their Blood Cries Out, and a leading authority on religious persecution. The subject got my attention again when I noticed two articles in the Jerusalem Post (Dec. 19-25) on the subject — one on the presence of Christians being eradicated in Gaza and another by Ms. Gilbert on the ongoing persecution and genocide in Sudan.

The article on Gaza is titled "Cruelty and Silence in Gaza." In Gaza, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank, there is a systematic campaign of persecution against the Christians. Jonathan Spyer, the author, notes that the silence of the Western media and about everyone else is aiding the perpetrators. They obviously see the world giving them a free pass to carry out assaults, kidnappings and other violations of the rights of Christians.

Mr. Spyer of the Global Research in International Affairs Center, writes, "The perpetrators are a variety of Islamic groups, all of which are manifestations of a process of growing Islamic militancy and piety taking place across the region." The Christian population in Gaza is 2,000-3,000 people.

Since the coup of the terrorist or ganization Hamas in July 2007, as you might imagine, the position of the Christians have continued to deteriorate. As you might also imagine, the authorities provide lip service but no opposition to the wave of religious persecution. Islamic organizations are now targeting individuals and organizations with impunity.

The trend got underway with the infamous blowing up of the only Christian bookstore by terrorists in April 2007. About six months later the owner of the bookstore was found dead.

At the time, staff members of the Palestinian Bible Society appealed for prayers and support for the persecuted Christians, but that cry for help has not been answered.

The terrorists have blown up dozens of Internet cafes and videocassette shops. Now the terrorists are concentrating on educational institutions. The terrorists bombed the YMCA Library and The Zahwa Rosary Sisters School, among other institutions.

The terrorist groups carrying out these attacks have made their purpose clear. The Popular Resistance Committees, one of the larger terror groups, has said Christians have to be eliminated in Gaza, as they are a pro-Western and anti-Islamic influence.

Hamas denounces these outrages and then conducts only superficial investigations. When there are arrests, and they are rare, the suspects are quickly released.

Mr. Spyer says the persecution of Christians is not a fringe activity, but is part of a larger Islamization process, involving Hamas, taking place in Palestinian society. Fatah is also involve d in this process.

The situation is a little better on the West bank because of a larger Christian population and a greater secular presence. But the anti-Christian trends are strong even in the West Bank.

Among the tactics being employed is "compulsory purchase" of lands owned by Christians. People with close links to Palestinian Authority Security forces are false registration, squatters and various illegal means to wrest land from the Christians.

Palestinian Christians would appear to have no reason for hope and are voting with their feet. For example, the population of Bethlehem has gone from 60 percent Christian in 1990 to fewer than 20 percent today, and may soon disappear altogether.

Ms. Gilbert visited Bethlehem on Dec. 20, and her description of one meeting with a Christian cleric perfectly captures how Hamas and the Palestinian Muslims have crushed all the life out of a once large and vibrant Christian community. Here is Ms. Gilbert's account of that visit:  "I went to Bethlehem myself Saturday and can tell you that there is heaviness in the air. A friend and I met with old Christian cleric — he's very ill — who must remain unnamed. Suffice it to say that he has worked there for 50 years among the Christians.

"As we were about to leave this frail old saint said, 'What will be left when I am gone?'  He doubtless feels he has lost everything — the innumerable Christians he has known and loved over decades who have left and relocated elsewhere, the Jewish friends in Israel he once enjoyed but who can no longer go there to visit him, a troubled son, his home country Iraq and the way of life he remembers there now destroyed by Saddam and Muslims.

"He also seems to have lost the freedom to speak candidly in his own home (he was clearly watching what he said, which he has not done on previous visits), and now it appears that his beloved church is vanishing like vapor in the wind. When I asked him what he most fears, he and his wife answered 'Hamas' in unison."

Mr. Spyer concludes his article, "These events reflect broader regional processes. Their failure to become known is also part of a larger trend. The foreign media, NGOs on the ground and some Western political leaderships prefer to foster a version of events in the West Bank and Gaza based on illusion and willful ignorance of the evidence. The slow death of an ancient community is one of the fruits of this."

Ms. Gilbert, in the same issue of the Jerusalem Post, turns her attention to the ongoing genocide and persecution of Christians in the Sudan, Africa's largest nation by land mass. Ms. Gilbert points out that in an attempt to impose Shari'a (Muslim) law, Sudan "has been bloodied by one of the most protracted and brutal civil wars in contemporary times."

This involves the Khartoum regime's attack against the Christian (and animist) in the South beginning in 198 3. She writes, "As a result, an estimated 2 million south Sudanese have since died while some four million have been displaced." There are two genocides in Sudan – one in Darfur and one against the South,

The slaughter in the South has not received the same attention as Darfur, but the problems there are far from solved. Nina Shea of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South is rapidly deteriorating, and the overall picture is grim.

People are anxious to return to their homes but there is literally nothing to return to with no water, sanitation medical care or other infrastructure. The peace agreement that was supposed to settle the conflict is at risk. That means the nine to 10 million Christians in the Sudan are also at risk.

Ms. Gilbert points out the long-time leader of the South was killed in a helicopter crash, and the duplicity of President Omar al-Bashir and the attempt of his Khartoum regime to enforce its radicalized version of Islam, means that the stipulations of the CPA are not being followed. Bashir continues to carry out aggression by assaulting oil-rich Abyei.

All this means that Christians who have fled to other countries such as Egypt are afraid to return. Some 3,000 Sudanese are now living in Israel.

Before all of these refugees, still in Sudan and in other lands, can successfully return, the South has to rebuilt. But that has been made impossible by Kharto um's failure to pay it oil profits and give it powers it is entitled to under the CPA.

Representing the International Christian Assembly, Charmaine Hedding traveled to the Sudan and her observations contain an action agenda:

"The CPA is fast becoming the fading hope of Sudan as once again the northern government reneges on its agreement. It is not just the threat against Sudan's viability as a country and the prospect of further civil war, but the consequences of an Islamic stronghold there could reverberate across Africa.

"This alone should cause the international community to target Khartoum with serious punitive measures aimed at stopping the atrocities and enforcing all the provisions of the CPA. Regardless, we have to commit to strengthening South Sudan as it alone has proved to be a partner for peace in Sudan, and ultimately in the region."

Nina Shea also issued a call for action: "Sudan continues to be designated a terrorist state by the US State Department. The US and Israel should be concerned abut another Islamist terrorist state with oil. Beginning now we must do everything possible to help the South sand on its own, whether or not the CPA is carried out."

If you want action to end discrimination against Christians in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere and if you want to help the South Sudan survive against the Islamic onslaught from the Khartoum government, you should write your U.S. Senators and Representatives and ask for appropriate action. You might also write the White House. In addition, you should try to put these issues forward in the media, with letters to the editor, with calls to talk shows, and with entries on blogs.

Citizen action is essential, as the mainstream media seems indifferent to persecution of Christians and other religious discrimination and to genocide. If you don't act, will anyone else?


Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School. He is a longtime Philadelphia journalist and  consumer advocate. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences. His column appears daily in The Bulletin. You can reach him at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza operation background

Last update - 22:42 27/12/2008       
Disinformation, secrecy, deception: How the Gaza offensive came about
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.
The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.
Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.
Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.
This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates for other facilities.
The plan of action that was implemented in Operation Cast Lead remained only a blueprint until a month ago, when tensions soared after the IDF carried out an incursion into Gaza during the ceasefire to take out a tunnel which the army said was intended to facilitate an attack by Palestinian militants on IDF troops.
On November 19, following dozens of Qassam rockets and mortar rounds which exploded on Israeli soil, the plan was brought for Barak's final approval. Last Thursday, on December 18, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the defense minister met at IDF headquarters in central Tel Aviv to approve the operation.
However, they decided to put the mission on hold to see whether Hamas would hold its fire after the expiration of the ceasefire. They therefore put off bringing the plan for the cabinet's approval, but they did inform Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the developments.
That night, in speaking to the media, sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said that "if the shooting from Gaza continues, the showdown with Hamas would be inevitable." On the weekend, several ministers in Olmert's cabinet inveighed against him and against Barak for not retaliating for Hamas' Qassam launches.
"This chatter would have made Entebe or the Six Day War impossible," Barak said in responding to the accusations. The cabinet was eventually convened on Wednesday, but the Prime Minister's Bureau misinformed the media in stating the discussion would revolve around global jihad. The ministers learned only that morning that the discussion would actually pertain to the operation in Gaza.
In its summary announcement for the discussion, the Prime Minister's Bureau devoted one line to the situation in Gaza, compared to one whole page that concerned the outlawing of 35 Islamic organizations.
What actually went on at the cabinet meeting was a five-hour discussion about the operation in which ministers were briefed about the various blueprints and plans of action. "It was a very detailed review," one minister said.
The minister added: "Everyone fully understood what sort of period we were heading into and what sort of scenarios this could lead to. No one could say that he or she did not know what they were voting on." The minister also said that the discussion showed that the lessons of the Winograd Committee about the performance of decision-makers during the 2006 Second Lebanon War were "fully internalized."
At the end of the discussion, the ministers unanimously voted in favor of the strike, leaving it for the prime minister, the defense minister and the foreign minister to work out the exact time.
While Barak was working out the final details with the officers responsible for the operation, Livni went to Cairo to inform Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, that Israel had decided to strike at Hamas.
In parallel, Israel continued to send out disinformation in announcing it would open the crossings to the Gaza Strip and that Olmert would decide whether to launch the strike following three more deliberations on Sunday - one day after the actual order to launch the operation was issued.
"Hamas evacuated all its headquarter personnel after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday," one defense official said, "but the organization sent its people back in when they heard that everything was put on hold until Sunday."
The final decision was made on Friday morning, when Barak met with Chief of Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of the Shin Bet Security Service Yuval Diskin and the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin. Barak sat down with Olmert and Livni several hours later for a final meeting, in which the trio gave the air force its orders.
On Friday night and on Saturday morning, opposition leaders and prominent political figures were informed about the impending strike, including Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beuiteinu's Avigdor Liebermen, Haim Oron from Meretz and President Shimon Peres, along with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.

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Meshaal wants Israel to cease fire, West Bank Palestinians to rise in revolt

This is not intended as a sick joke.
Mashaal: We still want cease-fire
Dec. 27, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Saturday called on West Bank residents to rise up against Israel in a renewed 'Intifada' in response to it's offensive on the Gaza Strip that left over 200 people dead and hundreds wounded.
In a televised speech, Mashaal warned Israel that it would not achieve by fighting what it had not been able to achieve through diplomacy.
While the Hamas leader maintained that his organization was interested in renewing the cease-fire with Israel, he said that this would only be possible on the condition that Israel lift its siege on Gaza and open all crossings in and out of the Strip.
Mashaal defended his group's actions and continued rocket attacks on Israel which led to the Israeli offensive, saying Israel - and not Hamas - was responsible for the renewed bloodshed.

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World leaders call for halt violence in Gaza

Where were they yesterday??
World leaders call for halt to violence
Dec. 27, 2008
AP, staff and Jonny Paul , THE JERUSALEM POST
World leaders appealed for a halt to violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip on Saturday after at least 190 Palestinians were killed in an IDF offensive against Hamas and dozens of rockets were launched into Israel in response, killing one and wounding several others.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he was "deeply alarmed" by the violence and bloodshed, and called on both sides to restore calm.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed concern with the situation in Gaza and called on Palestinian terrorists to halt rocket attacks on Israel.
"I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by Palestinian Authority President [Mahmoud] Abbas."
He said that while he understood the Israeli government's sense of obligation to its population," he was "deeply concerned" following the Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip and that Israel must "do everything in its power" to avoid civilian casualties.
Both Russia and the European Union called on both sides to cease hostility immediately, while France's President Nicolas Sarkozy went further in his criticism calling Israel's reaction to Hamas's provocations "disproportionate."
Quartet Representative Tony Blair said: "The terrible events and tragic loss of life in Gaza require, in the immediate term, the introduction of a genuine calm in which the rocket attacks aimed at killing Israeli civilians and the Israeli attacks on Gaza cease so that the suffering of the people, which is severe, can be lifted."
The White House also issued a statement calling to end the violence but put the onus on responsibility on Hamas, saying Israel had the right to defend its border.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi also urged Israelis and Palestinians to renounce violence and seek a peaceful solution to their conflict, saying Israel's offensive will be a "very serious blow" to Hamas but could also cause many innocent victims and damage peace prospects in the Holy Land.
The Arab world reacted in shock to the attacks on the Gaza Strip, with scattered protests around the region and Egypt summoning the Israeli ambassador to express its condemnation of the air strikes.
In a statement from the president's office, Egypt condemned Israel's attacks and held it responsible for those killed and wounded and called for renewed efforts to restore the truce with Hamas.
"Egypt will forge ahead with its contacts to create a favorable atmosphere for renewing the truce and attaining inter-Palestinian reconciliation in a bid to end the suffering of the Palestinian people," the statement said.
But the Egyptian leadership was also highly critical of Hamas, with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit saying the organization had ignored Israeli warnings that rocket attacks must stop.
Egypt also opened its border with the Gaza Strip to receive Palestinian wounded.
Egypt's closure of that border has been condemned by many in the Arab world for abetting Israel's siege of the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.
Arab League head Amr Moussa, meanwhile, called for an emergency meeting of all Arab foreign ministers in Cairo Sunday to address the crisis.
Hundreds of protesters in the Jordanian capital of Amman demonstrated in front of the nearby UN headquarters, waving Hamas banners and condemning Israel's strikes.
King Abdullah II called for an immediate halt "all military actions" in a statement issued by the royal palace, saying the attacks "targeted innocents among the civilians including women and children."
The king warned that "violence will only escalate the crisis and will not bring security to Israel."
In Beirut, dozens of youths hit the streets to express solidarity with the Palestinians and set fire to tires. Larger demonstrations were planned later in the day in Shiite suburbs and in south Lebanon's massive Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.
In Syria's al-Yarmouk camp, outside Damascus, dozens of Palestinians also protested the attack as well, vowing to continue fighting Israel.
"It's a Zionist holocaust, but it won't dissuade us from going on with our struggle to achieve our goals," said Ali Barakah, 42, one of the protesters.

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IDF amasses forces near Gaza ahead of possible ground op

IDF amasses forces near Gaza ahead of possible ground op.
Dec. 27, 2008
Yaakov Katz and staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
The IDF was beefing up forces around the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening in preparation of a possible ground operation following a massive air assault earlier in the day.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi were holding consultations on the army's next course of action.
Defense officials estimated that Hamas was capable of firing 150-200 rockets a day, adding that the operation could last for weeks.
Israel's goals, officials added, was to end Hamas rocket fire, end smuggling of arms into Gaza and severely disrupt any Hamas military activity.
In a press conference held earlier in Tel Aviv, Barak said the IDF would deepen and widen its offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip as much as needed.
"There is a time for cease-fires and a time to fight, and now is the time to fight," Barak said. "For months the IDF and security forces have been preparing for the operation that began today."
Barak stated that Israel had not intended to allow Hamas to continue to fire rockets into Israel without responding.
The defense minister warned that tough times lay ahead. "I don't want to deceive anyone," he said. "It won't be easy and won't be quick. We must be resolute." Rocket attacks were expected to continue and to increase during the operation, he added.
"For weeks Hamas and its satellite groups have rained [Israel] with rockets…and mortar shells. We did not intend to let this situation continue," he said.
In a statement released earlier by the Prime Minister's Office, the government's position regarding the operation was explained.
"Given Hamas violations of the ceasefire agreement and the unrelenting attacks on Israeli citizens in the south, a decision was made on Wednesday, December 24 by the Ministerial Committee on National Security, in which the IDF was ordered to act to bring about a cessation of rocket fire for a length of time," the statement said.

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Palestinians kill 1 Israeli;54 rockets - One reaches outskirts of Qiriat Gat

Last update - 21:39 27/12/2008       
One Israeli killed, 4 hurt as Palestinian rockets hit Negev home
By Fadi Adayat and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service
Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired at least 54 Qassam and Grad rockets into southern Israel on Saturday after Israeli air strikes killed more than 195 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestinian sources.
A home in the town of Netivot was hit by a grad missile, killing one and leaving four with moderate to serious injuries.
One rocket struck just outside Kiryat Gat, some 20 kilometers from Gaza. The strike marked the first time in the eight years since Hamas has been firing rockets into Israel that a rocket has struck the southern Israeli city.
The Israel Defense Forces had put communities near the border on alert, anticipating massive rocket barrages from Gaza in response to the Israel Air Force offensive in the territory.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak had ordered a state of emergency in all communities that lie within a radius of 20 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.
Defense officials anticipate a massive Palestinian bombardment of Israeli communities following the IAF strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
A short time following the IAF strikes, seven rockets exploded in the western Negev.
The IDF Home Front Command has issued directives to residents of towns adjacent to the Gaza border, including Sderot, requiring them to remain indoors. Authorities are forbidding residents from gathering in crowds.
Israelis residing in communities within a radius of 10 kilometers from Gaza are required to enter bomb-proof shelters within 15 seconds of hearing the siren warning of an incoming projectile.
Residents in towns which lie within a radius of 20-30 kilometers from the Gaza fence - areas which include Ashdod, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, and Rahat - are to enter shelters within 45 seconds of hearing the sirens.

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Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes

At the end of the day, as predicted, Ismail Hanniyeh was triumphantly defiant from his bunker. It is not really the Israeli "Shock and Awe" (remember how that ended) since Israel announced it has no intention of invading Gaza. According to Tzipi Livni, Israel expects the world to understand. She has great expectectiations, but as in the Lebanon War 2006 they will will not be enitrely fulfilled.
Last update - 19:47 27/12/2008       
Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes
By Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Israel launched Saturday morning the start of a massive offensive against Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling Hamas militant group.
Palestinian medical sources said that at least 205 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.
Medical personnel in Gaza said that more than 200 people were also wounded in the series of Israel Air Force strikes. Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.
The first wave of air strikes was launched by a 60 warplanes which hit a total of 50 targets in one fell swoop. The IAF deployed approximately 100 bombs, with an estimated 95 percent of the ordnance reaching its intended target. Most of the casualties were Hamas operatives.
A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed they would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break their "resistance to the occupation."
The spokesman added that Hamas would not "raise a white flag" of surrender and would respond with all means available at their disposal.
Prior to the operation, Israel sought to catch Hamas off guard by luring it into a false sense of security through certain measures, including the opening of Gaza border crossings on Friday.
Immediately following the first wave, some 20 IAF aircraft struck 50 Palestinian rocket launchers in an effort to minimize Hamas' retaliatory strikes.
The IDF emphasized that civilians located in areas whence Palestinians launch rockets and who quarter Hamas operatives in their homes are liable to be hurt.
The targets that were hit included training camps and installations as well as police stations, some of whom were located in civilian buildings.
The IDF chief of staff is holding nonstop consultations with officers. Senior military officials characterize the strikes as part of a "rolling operation" and have thus begun a sporadic enlistment of the reserves, particularly in smaller units.
Top IDF brass anticipate difficult days ahead, warning that the operation will extend beyond the next couple of days.
The strikes follow a decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet to intensify Israel's response to cross-border attacks on Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces warned Saturday that the airstrikes "will continue, will be expanded, and will deepen if necessary."
The Prime Minister's bureau issued a statement on Saturday following the IAF strikes in Gaza.
"The operation was launched following the violation of the terms of the lull by Hamas and the unceasing attacks by Hamas authorities on Israeli civilians in the south of the country," the communique read.
"The decision on the attack was made Wednesday during a meeting of the security-diplomatic cabinet, which instructed the IDF to act in order to bring a prolonged halt of missile fire and terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip," the prime minister's bureau said.
"The cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method of operation in accordance with the cabinet decision, which was unanimously reached. The three [ministers] decided to [approve] the execution of the air force attack on Saturday morning."
"Israel wishes to make clear that it will continue to act against terrorist operations and missile fire from the Strip which is intended to harm civilians."
"We face a period that will be neither easy nor short, and will require determination and perseverance until the necessary change is achieved in the situation in the south," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
Hamas ended its six-month cease-fire with Israel ended on December 19 - a day before it was due to expire - and the number of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, which had dwindled significantly, returned to pre-truce levels. Dozens of Qassams and mortars had been launched almost daily at Israeli communities near the Gaza border since Hamas declared the truce was over.
The IDF statement said its military strikes were predicated on precise intelligence amassed in recent months. The IDF said it is targeting a wide array of top Hamas officials.
At least two people were killed and 30 wounded from an attack in Khan Younis, a refugee camp in the south of Gaza.
TV footage showed bodies of more than a dozen black-clad security men lying on the ground in one area. Palestinian witnesses say one of the missiles struck Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, with at least 50 people among the casualties in the attack.
The IAF strikes on the police headquarters killed police chief Tawfiq Jabber, Hamas radio reported.
Residents reported hearing at least 15 explosions. Many of Hamas' security compounds are in residental areas, and the airstrikes took place as children were leaving school. Plumes of black smoke rose over Gaza City, sirens wailed through the streets and women frantically looked for their children.
The Reuters news agency reported that Gaza City port and security installations of Hamas had been badly damaged by the strikes.
Residents of the western Negev communities have received instructions from the authorities to remain in their homes and in bomb-proof rooms.
On Friday, Egyptian officials said that Egypt had begun boosting the security along its border with Gaza, in anticipation of the imminent IDF operation within the territory, fearing an Israeli incursion would result in a breach of the border.
In January, Hamas militants frustrated over the tightened Israeli closure of Gaza blew holes in the border partition, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to stream into Egypt unchecked for ten days and stock up on food and other goods made scarce by the blockade.
Egyptian officials told Israel Radio, however, that Egypt is pressing on with efforts to prevent the escalation of violence in the region. The officials said that representatives on behalf of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman have approached senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in the Gaza Strip and presented him with Egypt's concerns.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortar shells from the Gaza Strip overnight Thursday and early morning Friday, as the IDF prepared for action.
The mortars damaged one building, but no one was hurt in any of the incidents

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Palestinians: At least 140 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes

Last update - 13:38 27/12/2008       
Palestinians: At least 140 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Israel launched Saturday morning the start of a massive offensive against Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling Hamas militant group. Palestinian medical sources said that at least 140 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.
Medical personnel in Gaza said that more than 200 people were also wounded in the series of Israel Air Force strikes. Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.
The strikes follow a decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet to intensify Israel's response to cross-border attacks on Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces warned Saturday that the airstrikes "will continue, will be expanded, and will deepen if necessary."
Hamas ended its six-month cease-fire with Israel ended on December 19 - a day before it was due to expire - and the number of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, which had dwindled significantly, returned to pre-truce levels. Dozens of Qassams and mortars had been launched almost daily at Israeli communities near the Gaza border since Hamas declared the truce was over.
The IDF statement said its military strikes were predicated on precise intelligence amassed in recent months. The IDF said it is targeting a wide array of top Hamas officials.
Hamas said it would seek revenge, including launching new rocket attacks on Israel and sending suicide bombers to Israel.
"Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking on a Gaza radio station.
"I'm afraid we have at least 40 dead," police spokesman Islam Shahwan told Hamas radio earlier in the day on Saturday. He said a police compound in Gaza City had been hosting a graduation ceremony for new personnel when it was attacked.
At least two people were killed and 30 wounded from an attack in Khan Younis, a refugee camp in the south of Gaza.
TV footage showed bodies of more than a dozen black-clad security men lying on the ground in one area. Palestinian witnesses say one of the missiles struck Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, with at least 50 people among the casualties in the attack.
The IAF strikes on the police headquarters killed police chief Tawfiq Jabber, Hamas radio reported.
Residents reported hearing at least 15 explosions. Many of Hamas' security compounds are in residental areas, and the airstrikes took place as children were leaving school. Plumes of black smoke rose over Gaza City, sirens wailed through the streets and women frantically looked for their children.
In the West Bank, Hamas' rival, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that he condemns this "aggression" and calls for restraint, according to an aide, Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
Channel 10 television quoted Rudeineh as saying that the IDF action was "barbaric."
The Reuters news agency reported that Gaza City port and security installations of Hamas had been badly damaged by the strikes.
Residents of the western Negev communities have received instructions from the authorities to remain in their homes and in bomb-proof rooms.
On Friday, Egyptian officials said that Egypt had begun boosting the security along its border with Gaza, in anticipation of the imminent IDF operation within the territory, fearing an Israeli incursion would result in a breach of the border.
In January, Hamas militants frustrated over the tightened Israeli closure of Gaza blew holes in the border partition, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to stream into Egypt unchecked for ten days and stock up on food and other goods made scarce by the blockade.
Egyptian officials told Israel Radio, however, that Egypt is pressing on with efforts to prevent the escalation of violence in the region. The officials said that representatives on behalf of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman have approached senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in the Gaza Strip and presented him with Egypt's concerns.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortar shells from the Gaza Strip overnight Thursday and early morning Friday, as the IDF prepared for action.
The mortars damaged one building, but no one was hurt in any of the incidents.

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Report: IAF bombardment of Gaza produces many casualties

This looks like "son of Lebanon 2006 returns." A guerilla movement cannot be defeated from the air. The remarkable thing was that in searching Google for news reports of the new incursion, one finds dozens of identical reports from previous years.
Last update - 11:55 27/12/2008       
Sources: Many casualties in IAF bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza
By Haaretz Service and Reuters
Israel Air Force warplanes fired around 30 missiles at targets along the Gaza Strip's coast on Saturday, causing heavy damage, witnesses said.
A Reuters correspondent said Gaza City port and security installations of the Islamist Hamas group were badly damaged.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the attack, which followed a decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet to widen reprisals for cross-border Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.
Egypt has boosted the security along its border with Gaza, officials said Friday, in anticipation of an imminent Israel Defense Forces operation within the territory, fearing an Israeli incursion would result in a breach of the border.
In January, Hamas militants frustrated over the tightened Israeli closure of Gaza blew holes in the border partition, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to stream into Egypt unchecked for ten days and stock up on food and other goods made scarce by the blockade.
Egyptian officials told Israel Radio, however, that Egypt is pressing on with efforts to prevent the escalation of violence in the region. The officials said that representatives of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman have approached senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in the Gaza Strip and presented him with Egypt's concerns.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortar shells from the Gaza Strip overnight Thursday and early morning Friday, as the IDF prepared for action.
The mortars damaged one building, but no one was hurt in any of the incidents.
Reportedly, a "limited operation" will begin within days that will combine an air attack with some ground operations against Hamas and other Gaza terror groups.
The cabinet has given the go-ahead for an operation of a few days' duration with clearly defined goals.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Tel-Aviv World Orgasm day cancelled - Spoil sports prevent mass orgasm.

Raelians were going to hold a mass orgasm in Tel Aviv that would bring peace, but the event was called off because of threats from humorless persons. Talk about party poopers and spoil sports.
Last update - 15:22 26/12/2008       
'World Orgasm Day' orgy for peace canceled due to threats
By Haaretz Service
The alien-centered religion of the Raelians (named after leader Rael) had planned a special event to mark World Orgasm Day - a mass orgy for peace in Tel Aviv.
However, the event, scheduled to coincide with the Winter Solstice on December 21, was canceled after organizers received multiple threats.
Raelian spokesperson in Israel, Kobi Drori, said that the orgy would welcome all orientations, as long as participants were over 18, popular culture blogger Perez Hilton reported Friday.
The orgy - intended to "try and bring world peace through mass orgasm, this by experiencing consensual sex and natural, uninterrupted pleasure" - was to be the first of events to take place in Tel Aviv. In January, a conference on sexuality and masturbation will feature experts and writers in the field.
Drori said the group will not be deterred by this setback. "We wanted to put into practice the saying 'make love, not war'," he said, adding, "Several years ago an Iraqi boy whose limbs were amputated was shown on TV and everybody treated this as if it was okay, but when Janet Jackson exposed her breast during the Superbowl the American nation was appalled."
The Raelians are known for their liberal attitudes towards sexuality. They believe that mankind was created by aliens who arrived here thousands of years ago in UFOs. Despite their opposition to Biblical attitudes towards sex they see the Bible as a book that bears witness to ancient alien visitors, and place particular emphasis on the Book of Ezekiel, which they see as an ancient account of a UFO visitation.

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Mumbai Islamist terrorists sexually assaulted and mutilated victims before murdering them

You probably aren't going to see this on the BBC or CNN, not in so many words, but it happens. This is "anti-Zionism" at work. Aren't you proud to be part of this progressive and humanitarian cause?  This type of brutal, barbarian murder and mutilaiton, was typical of atrocities performed against Zionists by Palestinians before 1948.
Foreign nationals at the Taj were particular targets of barbaric terrorists who first forced some of the guests to strip, then killed them

 By Santosh Mishra
Posted On Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 02:25:08 AM
Disturbing photographs made available to this newspapers by police sources indicate that several of the guests at the Taj Mahal Hotel during the siege November 26 were sexually humiliated by the terrorists and then shot dead.
anti-Zionism at work - terror in Mumbai
Police sources confirm that even as the terrorists were engaged in a fierce combat with NSG commandos, they were humiliating their hostages before ending their terrifying ordeal.
Foreign guests were their particular target. Eight of the 31 killed at the Taj were foreign nationals.
Photographs taken by a police forensic team after the hotel was sanitised yield a gruesome picture of some of the guests in the nude.
These bodies were found away from the hotel's swimming pool which makes it clear that they were not those guests who were taken hostage from the poolside.
"Even the Rabbi and his wife at Nariman House were sexually assaulted and their genitalia mutilated," said a senior officer of the investigating team, not wishing to be quoted.
"We have CCTV footage which reveals how these terrorists forced some of the guests who were holed up in restuarants to strip, but there is not evidence of rape," he added.
These pictures, most of which we have refrained from printing, are in the records of the police and are now part of the investigation.  

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ANALYSIS / A hard look at Hamas' capabilities

Some points to consider:
  •  While Gaza was supposedly under a rigorous siege, the Hamas organized, trained and equipped a large army. Who pays their salaries? You do.
  • The major deterrent weapon of the Hamas is not listed here. It is Gilad Shalit of course. Any major IDF operation will endanger Shalit.
  • It is probable that Hamas have stinger or similar anti-aircraft missiles, and not just anti-tank rockets as mentioned in this analysis.  
Last update - 04:03 26/12/2008    
 ANALYSIS / A hard look at Hamas' capabilities 
 By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent 

Approximately 15,000 armed Palestinians. That's the size of the military force the Israel Defense Forces will face if a major operation in the Gaza Strip goes forward. These militants, from various Hamas factions, will presumably be aided by a few thousand militants from other Palestinian groups.
For two years Hamas, with Iranian assistance, has been working hard on developing its military power, using Hezbollah as a model.
Gaza Palestinians are preparing to step up their offensive, with rockets and mortar shells directed at Israel's civilian population in the south, as well as their defense, digging in to retard the IDF's progress and cause heavy Israeli casualties.
Nevertheless, military experts in Israel and the West believe the IDF is capable of retaking Gaza. Israeli reservations about a broad military operation, therefore, are mainly linked to the question of what happens afterward, when the IDF controls a large area that it doesn't want and is in constant friction with terrorists and the civilian population.
The main components of the "Hamas Army":
* Order of battle: Hamas is transitioning from a terror group to a paramilitary guerrilla organization. The transition includes improvements to the command and control structure, the acquisition of better weapons and the creation of a training program.
The core of Hamas' "army" is its military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, which the organization sees as its best trained and most disciplined force. It was deployed against Fatah in June 2007 and it will bear the brunt of any engagement with the IDF. Iz al-Din does not generally perform unpopular policing operations (such as the daily suppression of Fatah), instead focusing on preparing for battle with Israel.
The estimated size of the force is about 1,000, divided into sectors and from brigades down to companies.
* Training: Palestinian sources say Iz al-Din troops undergo rigorous military training as well as participating in ideological classes held in mosques. Hamas forces do six months of basic training that includes live-fire exercises in which they learn to fire rockets, antitank missiles and mortar shells.
They undergo urban warfare training, including exercises simulating an assault on a settlement complete with covering machine-gun fire and antitank fire prior to the assault. Some of the instructors were trained in Iran and Lebanon. In recent years dozens of Gazans have traveled to training camps run by terror organizations and Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
IDF soldiers who have fought Hamas cells in the Gaza Strip in the past two years report an impressive improvement in their discipline and in their equipment.
* Other factions: Hamas and smaller organizations, starting with Islamic Jihad, can be expected to cooperate in the event of an engagement with the IDF. Two Popular Resistance Committee factions maintain close contact with Hamas and are likely to subordinate themselves to the organization in a war with Israel.
Three military groupings identified with global jihad (that is, Al-Qaida and its offshoots), on the other hand, will not accept Hamas authority and will continue to operate independently.
* Rocket attacks: The rockets and mortar shells were initially developed as a way of bypassing the border fence, which prevented militants from entering Israel to carry out attacks. Shin Bet security service head, Yuval Diskin, told the cabinet this week that Hamas already has rockets with a range of 40 kilometers, that are capable of reaching Ashdod and the outskirts of Be'er Sheva.
These are advanced Katyusha that were smuggled into Gaza in pieces through the tunnels and assembled in Gaza. These rockets have not yet been fired at Israel but Hamas and Islamic Jihad already have dozens of 122 mm. Grad rockets with a range of about 20 km. Gaza militants recently began using another Iranian-supplied weapon, 120 mm. mortar shells with an 8-kilometer range.
Hamas has also made significant gains in manufacturing its own rockets. It has learned to create Ammonium Perchlorate Compound, an advanced rocket propellant that in addition to extending the Qassam's range beyond 20 kilometers also - and more importantly - increases the rocket's shelf life.
That means the organization can, for the first time, maintain a supply of rockets for months at a time. Analysts believe Hamas currently has over 1,000 rockets. Islamic Jihad maintains its own production and storage facilities, but both rely on Iranian experts for training. Sources in Gaza say that Hamas' "military industry" is working overtime to manufacture rockets, and that the organization can easily fire 80 rockets a day, as it did on Wednesday.
* Defense: Hamas' defensive strategy includes an extensive underground network of bunkers, tunnels and booby-trapped structures. The Palestinians have proved their explosives capabilities, having destroyed three Israeli tanks and two armored personnel carriers using high-grade explosives.
Antitank missiles are an important component of Hamas' defensive strategy, which takes on board the lessons learned by Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War. Hamas has acquired antitank missiles from the Eastern bloc, although the exact models and capabilities are not known.
Militants can be expected to employ antitank missiles against Israel Air Force helicopters in the event of a confrontation, in the effort to delay and obstruct the entry of the IDF.
* Offensive plans: Hamas' main weapon is its ability to launch dozens of rockets a day at Israel. In the event of an escalation the organization can be expected to try to prove that it can hit more distant targets, such as Be'er Sheva. Ashkelon is liable to suffer massive rockets attacks. In addition, Hamas is likely to target one kibbutz or moshav near the border in an attempt to cause large numbers of residents to leave and weaken Israeli morale. Israel must also be prepared for a surprise from Hamas, a la Hezbollah, ranging from additional tunnels to facilitate abductions to attacks on boats or aircraft and up to attacks on strategic targets in the south.

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Israeli hospital treats Palestinian injured by Qassam

The UN, Oxfam and Amnesty International will no doubt complain that the Israeli treatment was tardy and inadequate. Will this story appear in BBC? Possibly, but it is likely the story will blame Israeli artillery fire, or score Israel for failure to reinforce Palestinian houses against Qassam hits.
Gazan injured from failed rocket evacuated to Tel Aviv hospital
Shmulik Hadad YNET Published: 12.26.08, 15:07 / Israel News
A 40-year-old Palestinian seriously injured from a failed Qassam rocket launch was evacuated by a Magen David Adom crew to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center Friday.

The rocket directly hit the Palestinian's house, and he was hit in the head. The victim's two children were also injured in the incident, and negotiations towards their evacuation to hospital are being held.

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No Gaza Operation... yet

Is there going to be a Gaza operation or is the "operation" just calculated brinksmanship or what?
Preparations for this this attack seem to exceed the preparations for the allied invasion of Normandy: accouncements, international coordination, press conferences and speeches. The only thing missing is an army and an operation.
Well OK, someone did get their army ready:
Presumably, by now the Hamas are super-ready.
FM Livni speaks to counterparts, as well as to representatives in the EU and the United Nations, emphasizes necessity of Israel reaction to unceasing, civilian-targeted rocket fire from Hamas-controlled territory
Roni Sofer
Published:  12.26.08, 00:53 / Israel News
The opening of the Gaza crossings Friday morning and the expected transfer of 40 trucks full of food and humanitarian supplies appears to be a tactical decision. Israeli sources say that the move's objective is to allow the Gaza community to stock up on basic necessities, and thus mitigate the situation in the eyes of the international community, in the event that the IDF will need to undertake a military operation in the coastal enclave.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold a series of meetings Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (called the kitchen cabinet) to discuss the option of a potential Gaza operation.

One topic of these meetings will be the homefront's state of readiness and Israel's ability to improve it in the days leading up to a military operation in Gaza. Another meeting will deal with political measures that the Foreign Ministry must achieve in the international community.

Israel has already made a move in this last category over the past few days across the United States, Europe and even in Arab countries, in order to at least to communicate the country's side of the conflict.

Livni herself spoke with her counterparts in many of these countries, as well as to representatives in the United Nations and European Union, emphasizing the necessity of a reaction by Israel to unceasing, civilian-targeted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in the past week.

'Israel will need to use all its force'
Many of the foreign representatives expressed concern for the humanitarian considerations in Gaza, in the wake of a potential Israeli operation, and this is what the kitchen cabinet's third meeting will deal with.

Foreign Ministry efforts to plead Israel's case will are expected to continue next week.
Livni met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Thursday to discuss the developments in Gaza. Upon her return the foreign minister said "Israel cannot accept the situation in the Strip and must protect its citizens.
"Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors, but we cannot accept the fact that an extremist terror organization is trying to dictate our domestic situation while seeking better terms for a ceasefire that it has violated," she said. "Israel will not be able to restrain itself for much longer.
An official in Jerusalem said "if and when we do launch an operation, we must be prepared to deal with all of its aspects. As it appears now, the international community is calling for Israeli restraint, but it also understands that the current situation is intolerable and that Israel has no other option but to respond militarily to the ongoing rocket fire by Hamas gunmen on our innocent civilians."
On Thursday evening a Qassam fired from Gaza landed in an open area near Ashkelon's southern industrial zone; there were no reports of injuries or damage. In all, six rockets and more than 10 mortars were launched toward Israel throughout the day.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Thursday regarding the situation in the South that "Israel will need to use all its force in order to damage terror infrastructure and create a different and safe reality in the Gaza vicinity."
Despite the rocket fire, Barak announced that crossings into Gaza will be opened Friday to allow for the transition of humanitarian supplies to the Palestinian residents of the area.
Barak's decision to open the crossings was based on recommendations by professionals in the defense establishment, as well as appeals from international sources. 

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Senior crashes Hanukkah party, 14 hurt

Please, leave the vehicle outside!
Seventy-eight year-old driver loses control of his car, slams into building where holiday fest is being held and runs over several people; four hospitalized in serious condition
Associated Press
Published:  12.26.08, 07:58 / Israel News
A car slammed into a building where Orthodox Jewish families were celebrating Hanukkah on Thursday, injuring 14 people, police said.
Police said the injured ranged in age from 1 1/2 to 40, and four were hospitalized in serious condition. At least six of the injured were young children, hospital officials said.
The families from the Chabad Orthodox Jewish movement were celebrating Hanukkah Wonderland, an all-day celebration with events geared for children, including a crafts corner and a Hanukkah theater. Thursday was the fifth day of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights.
About 150 people were inside the building when a 78-year-old man lost control of his car and plowed through a plateglass window, Nassau County police said.
"He makes an abrupt left turn. It actually forces the car that's parked along the side of the road up onto the sidewalk," Nassau County police Lt. Kevin Smith said. "His car careens through several plateglass windows, enters the building and comes to rest after basically running over ... several people."
No charges had been filed against the driver Thursday evening, police said.
The Hanukkah Wonderland event was sponsored by Chabad of the Five Towns, representing the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community on Long Island, and held in Woodmere, about 25 miles southeast of Manhattan. The community's website said the event would feature a Hanukkah theater and the building of menorahs and dreidels out of Lego toys.
"We are doing whatever we possibly can for the families of these children during this most difficult of times and urge all people of good will to keep them in their prayers," Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, director of the Chabad of the Five Towns, said in a statement posted on the website.

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Channel 2 and Israel YouTube launch online Israel elections platform

Channel 2 and YouTube launch online elections platform
Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 25, 2008
Channel 2 and YouTube launched the first Israeli online elections platform this week that allows the public to upload questions for the candidates. It is located at  .

YouTube users will be able to vote for the most interesting question and the best questions will then be broadcast on Channel 2 and answered by the candidates. The people who asked the questions will be invited to the studio to take part in interviewing the candidates.

"YouTube enables voters and candidates to communicate in a way that simply was not possible during the last election," said Riki Drori, country marketing manager of Google Israel. "For the first time in the history of Israeli elections, voters from around the country will be able to ask the future prime minister a question in video form and hear the answer."

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Israel Election Polls: Likud 30-32; Kadima 23-26; Labor 11-14

5 Polls: Likud 30-32, Kadima 23-26, Labor 11-14
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date 25 December 2008
[All polls done by telephone and include Israeli Arabs. Sample size 475-525 where reported. Please note that by decision of Israel Supreme Court it is illegal to lump together results of "Arab parties," but this is the way the results were presented.]

Poll #1 Midgam Israel Television Channel 1 24 December 2008
Poll #2 Panorama for Israel Radio's Hakol Diburim (It's All Talk) 24 December 2008
Poll #3 Dahaf  24 December published in Yediot Ahronot on 25 December 2008.
Poll #4 Dialogue on 23 December Haaretz on 25 December 2008 (27% undecided).
Poll #5 Maagar Mohot for Israel Television Channel 2 "Mishal Cham" program 23 December 2008 [19% undecided/other replies .]

Current Knesset seats in [brackets].

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
25 23 26 26 25    [29] Kadima headed by Livni
11 14 12 11 11    [19] Labor
31 32 30 30 31    [12] Likud
10 12 10 13 12    [12] Shas
12 12 12 11 13    [11] Yisrael Beteinu
05 04 05 06 05    [09] "Jewish Home" (previously Nat'l Union/NRP)
07 07 06 05 05    [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 06 07 08 06    [05] Meretz
03 00 03 00 01    [00] Green Party
00 00 00 00 00    [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
00 00 00 02 02    [07] Retirees Party
10 10 09 08 09    [10] Arab parties
00 00 00 00 00    [00] Meimad
00 00 00 00 00    [00] Strong Israel (Efraim Sneh)
00 00 00 00 00    [00] Hatikvah (Eldad)

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Israeli cabinet OKs Gaza operation after 70 projectiles hit Israel

The operation may not be quite as imminent as reported here. It probably cannot happen while Tzipi Livni is in Egypt, and probably President Mubarrak will ask for more time to arrange a truce. Weather conditions have to be right, and if they are wise, the security establishment will call up reserves "just in case."
The killing of the Hamas operatives launching rockets today was most likely not part of a wider retaliatory plan as stated, but rather part of ongoing operations to detect and stop rocket launching teams.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 01:38 25/12/2008       
Cabinet approves Gaza op after 70 missiles hit Israel
By Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
The defense establishment is currently preparing for a military move against Hamas targets in Gaza, after the Islamist group launched more than 70 rockets into Israel on Wednesday.
As an initial retaliatory measure, an Israel Air Force strike killed a Hamas gunman in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Israel's response will go beyond the air raid, an Israeli official told Haaretz.
"Our response will be substantial and painful to Hamas," the official said.
By late morning Wednesday, the Magen David Adom rescue service declared its highest level of alert.
One of the rockets exploded next to a children's playground in the southern town of Netivot and a mortar shell scored a direct hit on a house in Kibbutz Sha'ar Hanegev, causing extensive damage. A house in the community of Sdot Negev was also severely damaged after it absorbed a direct rocket hit.
Two more rockets, including a Grad-type missile, exploded in a public area in the northern Negev city of Ashkelon.
During a cabinet meeting about the situation in and outside the Gaza Strip, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer gave ministers in attendance an overview of the potential retaliatory moves that the defense establishment is planning against Hamas' regime.
Most strikes will come from the air and be aimed at facilities believed to be of strategic importance to Hamas' political and military leadership. However, the officer said that weather conditions are currently preventing the air force from launching the raids.
According to officials in Jerusalem, the overview also included a special reference to the possible implications of attacking Hamas.
"We are not eager to strike, but we will not hesitate to act," one official said. "If Hamas is looking for noise, we will make Gaza very noisy."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government said it had shown restraint until now but vowed to act if the salvoes continued.
The same official said that Israel would be willing to extend the June cease-fire, which expired last week, if Hamas would agree to resuming it.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to arrive on Thursday in Cairo for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose administration helped facilitate the cease-fire. Sources close to Livni said she intended to tell Mubarak that Israel will not accept Hamas' current terms for a ceasefire. Hamas' statements also contained a similar mix of threats and assurances.
"Hamas will hit not only Sderot, but also what lies beyond Sderot," Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri said, in a possible reference to extended ballistic capabilities.
Other spokespeople said the organization will agree to "resume" the ceasefire, if the organization's conditions are met. Hamas is demanding an improved ceasefire agreement, that also includes the West Bank.
In a statement by Hamas' military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, a spokesperson warned that "thousands of additional Israelis will soon be within the range of our rockets if Israel continues with its aggression."
"The residents of the south will stay in the bomb shelters for a long time," the Hamas statement continued, adding that "threats of an [Israeli] military offensive don't scare us because we are more prepared than ever."
All Israeli towns within a 30-kilometer radius of the Gaza Strip were hooked up on Wednesday to an early warning system designed to deliver rocket launch alerts. Among the newly-connected towns and cities are Ofakim and Netivot.
Ashdod, with its center just outside the 30-kilometer mark, is expected to be connected to the system within the next 24 hours. Some towns are already connected to the "Color Red" system, which alerts residents living within a seven-kilometer radius of the Strip.
Meir Yifrach, head of Sdot Negev Regional Council, said that the current situation was intolerable and that "the people of the southern region of Israel are demanding that the government order the army to act in Gaza so that civilian life may be allowed to return to normal."
"It defies logic that the firing of so many Qassam should be allowed to cause so much fear and damage to the people of Israel during Hannukah," he said. "It started with a drizzle, then the Qassams began to rain down hard, and now we're already experiencing a deluge."
Yanir Yagna contributed to this article.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ahmadinejad fidlles while Iranians starve

Iranian president's fiscal policies come under attack by opposition claiming he depleted Islamic Republic's reserve fund, meant to help needy
Gil Feiler, Doron Peskin
Published:  12.24.08, 15:36 / Israel Money 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's financial policies came under attack recently, as those opposing him within the Islamic Republic claimed that he has singlehandedly driven the country into financial ruin.
Several weeks ago, Ahmadinejad appeared before his parliament in order to defend his policies and announced that his government will allot the failing Iranian market a bailout plan, which will allow it, and the weaker socioeconomic classes, to get back on their feet.
The Iranian president's promises, however, proved empty. Earlier in the week, the reformist Iranian daily Saramiya reported that Ahmadinejad has depleted the Iranian reserve fund meant to aid the country's poor – somewhat of a problem when you consider the fact that Ahmadinejad won his presidency based on campaign promises pledging to improve the low social echelons' status.
According to the report, Ahmadinejad has managed to "irresponsibly and illegally" squander $140 billion. The blame, added the repot, lies with the continuous funding of projects is various Iranian provinces, which – according to his criticizers – is devoid of any financial logic, and demonstrates mainly fiscal foolery.
Moreover, many of the Iranians who voted him in office are feeling betrayed, faced with mounting financial distress. "Contrary to Ahmadinejad's claims, his policies have only increased poverty and hardship; and the financial gaps have widened since he came to power," said the report in Saramiya.
20 million Iranians living under poverty line

Hussein Ra'afer, advisor to the Iranian minister of Welfare and Social Security, was quoted as saying that according to the ministry's data, about a third of the Iranians – 20 million people – live under the poverty line, and the government "is not doing anything about the unemployment and drug problems."
Iran's inflation rate is also increasing rapidly, hitting 29.4% in September.
The social gaps are particularly evident between the country's north and it south: The south is mostly occupied by the Sunni minority, who live in poverty; while northern Iran is where the Shiite majority lives, and where wealth and luxury can be found. "It is as if there are two countries in Iran," said an Iranian analyst.
Financial experts in Iran are not oblivious to the crisis: earlier in December, a group of them sent a letter to Ahmadinejad in which they harshly criticized his financial policies. "The government's economic policies," said the letter, "is taking a heavy toll on a country in crisis."
Dr. Gil Feiler is founder and managing director of Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd. , and Doron Peskin is head of research

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Give the Devil his due: British TV Channel airs alternative Christmas message from Ahmadinejad

This is regrettably not a joke. British TV Channel 4 always wants to do something different. Two years ago they got a veiled Muslim woman to badmouth Jack Straw for Christmas. She is still veiled. Nobody knows who she is. This  year they wanted to do something really outrageous. They decided to give the representative of old Nick himself a chance to deliver an alternative Christmas message. They tried to get Osama Bin Laden, but he was not available, Chester the Child Molester couldn't  be paroled, and Hitler and Pohl Pot are dead. So they got Mahmoud Ahmadinejad instead. (See: Ahmadinejad to give alternative Christmas message)
Here's the real alternative message:
"War on earth, destruction to all infidels. Death to America! Death to Zionists! Death to Bahai! Death to Homosexuals! ".
From the sayings of the Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini, Ahmadinejad's mentor:
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.

But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world ... Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.

Islam says: kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all!

Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies].

Islam says: kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy?

Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors! (Gems of Khomeini )

A message of cheer and peace in the spirit of Christmas!
Ho Ho Ho and a merry Christmas to the infidel sons of dogs and pigs in Britain! The kafirs can watch the message in Britain at 7:15 PM, or blow themselves up at the TV station in return for 72 dark eyed virgins.
Alternatively, Israel Broadcasting Authority will broadcast the Midnight Mass from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth this evening (Dec 24-25) beginning at 23:55 Israel time (21:55 in UK 16:55 (4:55 PM) Eastern Standard Time) It can be viewed at the IBA Web site: A different sort of alternative Christmas Message.
Have a truly Merry and blessed Christmas - and may the lord bless and keep Ahmadinejad - far away from us.
Ami Isseroff

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Video shows truth about Gaza Siege

1 picture is worth a thousand words - how about several minutes of video?

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Report: Hamas to impose Sharia punishments including whipping and amputation in Gaza

Hamas pushes for Sharia punishments
Dec. 24, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Hamas parliament in the Gaza Strip voted in favor of a law allowing courts to mete out sentences in the spirit of Islam, the London-based Arab daily Al Hayat reported Wednesday.
According to the bill, approved in its second reading and awaiting the signature of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian constitution demands, courts will be able to condemn offenders to a plethora of violent punitive measures.
Such punishments include whipping, severing hands, crucifixion and hanging. The bill reserves death sentences to persons who negotiate with a foreign government "against the Palestinian interest" and engage in any activity that can "hurt Palestinian morale."
According to the report, any Palestinian caught drinking or selling wine would suffer 40 lashes at the whipping post if the bill passes. Thieves caught red-handed would lose their right hand.
The Jerusalem Post could not verify the veracity of the Al Hayat report.
This article can also be read at

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Lebanese don't want peace, but U.S. wants Israel to consider their interests

Lebanon wants Israel to make peace with Syria thereby allowing Syrian control of Lebanon, or more correctly, getting the Hezbollah off the back of the Lebanese. But the U.S. is opposed.
Consider these two stories:
A public debate erupted this week among parliamentarians in Lebanon, over whether Beirut should begin peace negotiations with Jerusalem.
The head of the parliamentary majority, Saad Hariri, has discounted the possibility, saying to was against "Lebanon's national interest" to engage in talks with Israel.
Nevertheless, he welcomed the renewal of contacts between Israel and Syria, and said Lebanon supports a just peace. "Inshallah, there will be peace between Syria and Israel," he said.
Earlier this week, the Lebanese-Christian General Michel Aoun - who recently visited both Tehran and Damascus -- surprised many by suggesting that Lebanon begin negotiations with Israel, with Syria sitting at the same table.
While Hariri opposes talks, others in his political bloc see the merits of entering the peace process. Amin al-Gemayel, the country's Christian leader, said on Monday the best solution to the sectarian conflict in Lebanon was to demand a strategy for peace rather than for defense.
Senior U.S. State Department officials sent concerned messages to their Israeli counterparts in recent months regarding the negative effects an Israel-Syria peace deal could have on Lebanese sovereignty.
"Don't sell Lebanon to the Syrians," American officials reportedly wrote.
The diplomatic messages asked Israel to remain committed to Lebanese sovereignty at all costs, stating "Israel must not sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of peace with Syria." A senior Foreign Ministry official said the U.S. even asked Israel for "guarantees" on the matter.
If that doesn't prove US diplomacy is incompetent and unrealistic, then what does?
Ami Isseroff

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Bush pardons American who helped Israel get B-17s in 1948 war

Indeed, the B-17s played an important, if symbolic role in the Israel War of Independence, and convinced the Egyptians to stop bombing Tel-Aviv.
Last update - 05:54 24/12/2008       
Bush pardons man who gave Israel arms in 1948 war
By News Agencies
In a gesture of forgiveness for an American considered a hero in Israel, President George W. Bush on Tuesday granted a pardon posthumously to a man who broke the law to supply aircraft to Jews fighting in  Israel's 1948 War of Independence.
Charles Winters was listed in a batch of 19 pardons and one commutation that Bush issued before leaving for Camp David to spend the holidays. No high-profile lawbreakers were on the list.
In the summer of 1948, Winters, a non-Jewish Miami businessman who exported produce, worked with others to transfer two converted B-17 "Flying Fortresses" to Israel's defense forces. He personally flew one of the aircraft from Miami to Czechoslovakia, where that plane and a third B-17 were retrofitted for use as bombers.

The three B-17s were the only heavy bombers in the Israeli Air Force. It is reported that counterattacks with the bombers helped turn the war in Israel's favor. In March 1961, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir issued a letter of commendation to Winters to recognize his contributions to Israel's survival as an independent state.
Over the years, Winters, a Protestant from Boston who settled in the Miami area, told his family little of his conviction in 1949 for violating the Neutrality Act for conspiring to export aircraft to a foreign country. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Two others, Herman Greenspun and Al Schwimmer, also were convicted of violating the act, but they did not serve time. President Kennedy pardoned Greenspun in 1961. President Clinton pardoned Schwimmer in 2000.

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Danger of falling bodies: Stay clear of tall buildings around Wall street

More fallout from Mad Bernie Madoff's ripoff.
Last update - 09:29 24/12/2008       
N.Y. investor kills himself after losing over $1 billion in alleged Madoff scam
By The Associated Press
He was a distinguished investor who traced his lineage to the French aristocracy, hobnobbed with members of European high society and sailed around the world on fancy yachts.
But after losing more than $1 billion of his clients' money to Bernard Madoff, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet had enough. He locked the door of his Madison Avenue office and apparently swallowed sleeping pills and slashed his wrists with a box cutter, police said.
A security guard found his body Tuesday morning, next to a garbage can placed to catch the blood.
The bloody scene marked a grisly turn in the Madoff scandal in which money managers and investors were ensnared in an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme.
De la Villehuchet is believed to have lost about $1.4 billion to Madoff.
No suicide note was found, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul
De la Villehuchet, 65, was an esteemed financier who tapped his upper-crust European connections to attract clients. It was not immediately clear how he knew Madoff or who his clients were.
He grew increasingly subdued after the Madoff scandal broke, drawing suspicion among janitors at his office Monday night when he demanded that they be out of there by 7 p.m. Less than 13 hours later, his body was found.
His death came as swindled investors began looking for ways to recoup their losses. Funds that lost big to Madoff are also facing investor lawsuits and backlash for failing to properly vet Madoff and overlooking red flags that could have steered them away. It's not immediately known what kind of scrutiny de la Villehuchet was facing over his losses.
De la Villehuchet comes from rich French lineage, with the Magon part of his name referring to one of France's most powerful families. The Magon name is even listed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a monument commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.
"He's irreproachable," said Bill Rapavy, who was Access International's chief operating officer before founding his own firm in 2007.
De la Villehuchet's firm enlisted intermediaries with links to wealthy Europeans to garner investors. Among them was Phirppe Junot, a French businessman and friend who is the former husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, and Prince Michel of Yugoslavia.
De la Villehuchet, the former chairman and chief executive of Credit Lyonnais Securities USA, was also known as a keen sailor who regularly participated in regattas and was a member of the New York Yacht Club.
He lived in an affluent suburb in Westchester County with his wife, Claudine. They have no children. There was no answer Tuesday at the family's two-story house. Phone calls to the home and de la Villehuchet's office went unanswered.
Guy Gurney, a British photographer living in Connecticut, was friends with de la Villehuchet. The two often sailed together and competed in a regatta in France in November.
He was a very honorable man, Gurney said. He was extraordinarily generous. He was an aristocrat but not a snob. He was a real person. When he was sailing, he was one of the boys.
The two were supposed to have dinner last Friday but Gurney called the day before to cancel because of the weather. But during the call, de la
Villehuchet revealed he had been ensnared in the Madoff scandal.
"He sounded very subdued," Gurney said.
Gurney said de la Villehuchet was happily married to his wife.
"I can't imagine what it's like for her now," he said.

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Slight impediment to Gaza truce efforts

This headline is not intended as a joke, it seems:
It says:
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip bombarded the western Negev with over a dozen Qassam rockets and mortar shells on Wednesday, burdening diplomatic efforts to revive a truce that expired over the weekend.
Well yes, that would make things a bit difficult. The "Militants" are of course terrorists.

Last update - 11:13 24/12/2008       
Rocket barrage pounds Negev, burdening efforts to renew truce with Gaza
By Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents, and DPA
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip bombarded the western Negev with over a dozen Qassam rockets and mortar shells on Wednesday, burdening diplomatic efforts to revive a truce that expired over the weekend.
At least 21 Qassam rockets and eight mortar shells were fired at southern Israel by mid-morning, with the location of 10 pinpointed. One of the mortars struck a direct hit on a house in Kibbutz Sha'ar Hanegev, causing extensive damage.
Most of the Qassams and shells were fired overnight, while three rockets hit Netivot and another two Grad-type missiles exploded in a public area of Ashkelon after sunrise.
The political-security cabinet held an urgent session on Wednesday morning to discuss ways of responding to the fire, calling in Defense Minister Ehud Barak for consultations.
The defense establishment ordered border crossings to Gaza to remain closed on Wednesday in response to the attacks. On Tuesday, Israel had said it would to open the border to allow food and medicine to enter the Gaza Strip, after days in which the crossings have been closed due to the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza.
The shipment of humanitarian aid was to include five trucks from Egypt, which requested that Israel open the Kerem Shalom crossing to let the convoy pass, and 30 from the West Bank containing goods supplied by international organizations.
Rescue services have raised their alert to the second highest level and the Home Front Command has warned Gaza-area residents to keep children indoors as the barrage continues.
The barrage came after a senior Hamas official said in an interview published Tuesday that the Islamist group would be willing to renew its cease-fire with Israel without adding any new conditions.
The barrage was apparently launched in response to the Israel Defense Forces' killing of three armed Palestinians, who were seen laying bombs along the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday.
Six rockets struck the Negev on Tuesday and four more hit the day before, despite Hamas' declaration on Monday that militant factions had agreed to a 24-hour truce.
Hamas: Group ready for truce if Israel sticks to original terms
On Tuesday, senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram that "the Palestinians want to give a chance to the Egyptian mediators. Hamas is ready for a truce, if Israel sticks to the terms of the June agreement."
A one-day cease-fire called on Monday "would be extended if positive developments were found," he added.
Officials in the office of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' leader in the Gaza Strip, confirmed the remarks.
However, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that while the movement would "study any offer" for a truce, it had not received any so far. And Israeli government and defense establishment sources said that Israel has no intention of conducting new cease-fire negotiations with Hamas at this time.
The Israeli sources confirmed that Egypt is more involved in trying to mediate a truce than it was two days ago. However, they said, it is unclear whether Cairo has enough leverage over Hamas to persuade the organization to reach a deal.
"And before anything else, the [rocket] fire has to stop," added one.
Abbas: Egypt pledges to push for rewnewal of truce
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Tuesday, said afterward that Egypt had pledged to try to convince Hamas and Israel to renew the truce. He also said there has recently been progress in the reconciliation talks between his Fatah movement and Hamas.
Hamas ended its six-month truce with Israel, which began on June 19, last Friday. On Monday, however, it announced it had agreed to an Egyptian request to halt firing for 24 hours to allow the aid convoy to enter the Strip. Virtually all major bakeries in Gaza are currently closed because they lack fuel to run their ovens and flour to bake bread.
However, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that the one-day truce came "after a warning from Egypt that Israel would begin assassinating Hamas leaders if the rockets continued." Quoting an unnamed "senior Hamas official," the daily said Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had contacted Hamas leaders in both Gaza and Damascus and urged them to halt the rockets so as not to give Israel an excuse to attack.
IDF troops kill three Gaza militants rigging bomb at border
Meanwhile, the violence continued unabated Tuesday: The Israel Defense Forces killed three armed Palestinians as they were laying bombs along the Israel-Gaza border, while Palestinians fired five Qassam rockets from Gaza into the Negev.
The armed Palestinians threw grenades at the soldiers and set off one bomb before they were killed, but caused no casualties. The rockets also caused no casualties, as all landed in open areas of the Negev. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.
Also Tuesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni blamed Egypt for Hamas' continuing grip on Gaza. Speaking to the Israel Women's Network in Tel Aviv, she said that "over the last half year, there has not been appropriate monitoring of the Philadelphi Road, which has led to Hamas growing stronger militarily." The Philadelphi Road runs along the Gaza-Egypt border.
Livni plans to raise the issue of arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza when she meets Thursday with Mubarak in Cairo.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The question of linkage and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

What this man has to say about linkage is worth reading, whatever we might think of the soluion.

How to Deal with the Arab-Israeli 'Condition' Adam Garfinkle

From Washington Institute for Near East Affairs Policy Focus #90, December 2008

There are two basic schools of thought concerning the relationship of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the many troubles of the Middle East and beyond. One school subscribes to linkage, indeed, in the centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the key to solving most of the region's other problems. The other argues the reverse--that "all politics are local," that the Arab- Israeli conflict is neither central to nor closely linked with the region's other conundrums. Both of these points of view cannot be right.

As it happens, both are wrong in significant but distinct ways. The linkage school is wrong on analytical grounds--its arguments (insofar as it offers arguments as opposed to bald assertions) are false. There is scant evidence for its contentions, and plenty of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. The anti-linkage school is wrong on phenomenological grounds--its analytical arguments are sound, but it fails to acknowledge the autonomous power of massive and self-regenerating misperception and the practical impossibility of correcting it anytime soon.

Understanding this distinction can illuminate how President Barack Obama should approach the conflict as part and parcel of a Middle Eastern and global foreign policy strategy. In essence, he will be confronted with a Goldilocks problem. If his administration invests too much energy in a linkage-based policy to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute at a time when local conditions make significant progress extremely unlikely, it will waste political capital, further harm Washington's already degraded reputation for effectiveness and good judgment, and risk misleading the Israelis and Palestinians into making their situations worse. Despite the best of intentions, this is more or less what the Clinton administration did. Conversely, if the incoming administration invests too little diplomatic energy toward resolving the conflict, it will harm important diplomatic equities it needs to effectively manage other, arguably far more important, problems.

Despite the best of intentions, this is more or less what the outgoing Bush administration did, at least before mid-2007. The Obama administration must craft a more balanced approach, neither too hot nor too cold, neither too hard nor too soft, neither too high nor too low in its aspirations.

Debunking Linkage

The linkage school is by far the more popular of the two. It constitutes a taken-for-granted truth among the political class in Europe, in most of the capitals of what used to be called the Third World, and in consequential quarters in the United States. This does not make it right, of course, any more than majority opinion in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, made witches real. Reams of examples of this type of thinking could be enumerated, but what is so odd is that the vast majority of them are not accompanied by an explicit argument. Instead, when these assertions are made in public, they typically prompt a moment of solemn silence before the speaker or writer moves on, feeling refreshed from having uttered what amounts to a faith-based (as opposed to a fact-based) truth.

When pressed for causal analysis, advocates of linkage tend to make three "rolling" assertions: that the Palestinian issue generates hostility against the United States because of its "special" relationship with Israel; that this hostility is the main source feeding both anti- Americanism and terrorist recruitment in the Arab and broader Muslim worlds; and that this anti-Americanism in turn jeopardizes U.S. interests across the board, from cooperation on energy issues to the promotion of democracy and socioeconomic reform. What to make of these assertions and their occasional accompanying analysis? Some parts are plainly false; others are more plausible but either unproven or exaggerated.

First of all, there is little or no evidence that longstanding U.S. support for Israel generates the bulk of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world--such sentiment, after all, predates the development of the "special" relationship. Increased anti-Americanism today has more to do with the magnification of underlying cultural predispositions vested in religion by dominant interpretations of Western colonialism, the demise of the Soviet Union, the Iraq war, and, above all, enduring U.S. support for several deeply unpopular Arab regimes. The proof of the last point is that anti-Americanism is more deeply embedded in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia than in, say, Algeria or even Syria and Iran, though the Iranian regime is, if anything, more ideologically hostile to both Israel and the United States than any Sunni Arab state today.

Of course, American support for Israel in the context of the Palestinian crucible is not without some significance.

Depending on where one is and the age of one's interlocutors, the plight of the Palestinians--and presumed Israeli and U.S. culpability for it--does generate hostility. But how much hostility depends on many things, not least the way the conflict is portrayed by Middle Eastern media. In recent years, the emotional quotient of the conflict has risen to the level of a passion play thanks to televised scenes--some real, at least a few staged, but nearly all slanted by acts of commission and omission--of the conflict's periodic spasms of violence.

Such scenes typically implicate the United States as a coconspiring villain. So the belief is sincere, even if what generates or embellishes it is biased.

For all its popularity, the claim that the Palestinian issue generates terrorist recruitment against the West and the United States is plausible but unsubstantiated, and a closer look at the facts casts doubt on its veracity.

Relatively few Palestinians have been active as either leaders or followers in al-Qaeda, and when former radicals from elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world have been debriefed, Palestine is only one of many grievances cited (alongside Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia, Mindanao, and others). The social science literature on "who becomes a terrorist" suggests that the process works from the general to the specific, not the other way around. Violent extremists become so for philosophical and personal reasons first, and only later learn the list of political grievances against the West.1 Moreover, al-Qaeda's past proclamation of war against "Jews and Crusaders" does not refer only or mainly to Israel and Palestine, but rather to an imagined global Jewish conspiracy centered more in Washington and New York than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The pecking order of grievances aside, it is also worth noting the illogic of asserting that a new U.S.

administration promulgating a solution for the Arab- Israeli conflict would help solve other problems (rather than the other way around, as was the case with the 1991 Madrid Conference, for example). Quite aside from the impracticality of imposing peace on Israelis and Arabs (which some favor), any imaginable political settlement would further legitimate, protect, and support a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Anyone who thinks that such a result would satisfy the Muslim extremists most likely to resort to terrorism does not understand their views. Opponents of such a settlement would attack any Arab or Muslim who would dare put his seal on it, as well as any Western state whose good offices helped bring it about. They would redouble their efforts to prevent any such settlement, and terrorism would likely increase in the short term-- short defined as anywhere between five and fifty years.

This is not the place to explain in detail why so many people in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States evidently believe in the tenets of the linkage school even though they are manifestly false or logically frail.2 Suffice it to say that many are enticed by simple explanations for complex problems, that focusing on Jews as being central to some people's anxieties is an old (and not particularly admirable) habit, and that several Middle Eastern governments have found it ------

1.Most literal debriefings of captured and former terrorists remain classified. One excellent illustration of the point, however, may be found in Ed Husain, The Islamist (Penguin, 2007). Other relevant literature includes Neil J. Smelser, The Faces of Terrorism: Social and Psychological Dimensions (Princeton University Press, 2007); National Research Council, Terrorism: Perspectives from the Social Sciences (National Academies Press, 2002); Alan B. Krueger, What Makes a Terrorist (Princeton University Press, 2007), Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, third edition (University of California Press, 2003); and Marc Sageman, Leaderless Jihad (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), especially chapter 3.

2. A detailed analysis of this question can be found in my forthcoming book Jewcentricity: Why the Jews are Praised, Blamed, and Used to Explain Almost Everything ( John Wiley, 2009), chapter 12.

easier to leverage these inclinations for their own purposes than to manage their challenges in other ways.

This is the place, however, to reckon with the autonomous impact of that belief. The beginning of wisdom here is to acknowledge that there is nothing unusual about irrational beliefs suffusing entire societies. Not too long ago, for example, the majority of citizens in one of Europe's most advanced societies seemed to believe in global Jewish conspiracies to conquer the world. Read enough social history and it is not difficult to conclude that majorities in most places have often held a lot of nonsensical, but not thereby inconsequential, beliefs. When Westerners, out of a sense of obligation to multicultural political correctness, refuse to credit the possibility that other societies could be so different from their own, they are engaging in acts of culturally based delusion not all that much different in character from that of their various "nonsensical" counterparts.

Dealing with the Real Effects of Linkage

However frustrating it may be, U.S. policymakers must acknowledge that the centrality of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict has become a social-psychological fact in the Middle East and beyond. Since beliefs tend to have self-fulfilling and self-denying consequences, this is hardly trivial. Nevertheless, a social-psychological fact is not the same as a strategic fact. The Obama administration therefore must keep clear that a U.S.-mediated (or imposed) solution to the Israel-Palestinian impasse, even were it possible, will not significantly affect the wider war on terror. It will not make democratization and liberalization within Arab countries appreciably easier. It will not affect world energy markets. And it will not make the United States more popular in most Muslim countries, unless it were accompanied by overt manifestations of anti- Jewish sentiment that would align with popular sentiment in those societies.

Although Washington must not confuse socialpsychological facts with strategic ones, it must not ignore them either. With fresh evidence from the summer 2006 Israel-Hizballah war--when the would-be traveling ministrations of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confronted the fact that no Arab capital would allow her plane to land--the Bush administration finally got the point: Hence the November 2007 Annapolis summit and Secretary Rice's subsequent time-consuming Levantine exertions.

One should be clear that these efforts have not been premised on a high prospect of actually achieving Arab-Israeli peace, although it doesn't necessarily hurt to try. Secretary Rice does not believe in diplomatic miracles; she has come to believe, however, in the need to expend considerable energies to cultivate appearances. What she has been doing is optical, if not illusional, in nature: the U.S. government must maintain equities with all parties for the day when progress might again be possible. It must also encourage conciliable actors on all sides so that the situation does not deteriorate further in the meantime. And, of more immediate value, it is wise to provide cover for several Arab regimes that incline to cooperate with the United States in other spheres. In addition, an active peace diplomacy could produce useful stresses in the region's Iranian-led rejectionist camp.

This sort of optical diplomacy is not heroic; no one is going to win a Nobel Peace Prize for acts of impression management. But this is what the current reality requires, and it is one of several burdens the Obama administration will have to bear. Confronted with a massive dialectic of error about the supposed centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Middle Eastern and world affairs, but with little hope of actually ending the conflict in the next four years, here, then, is what President Obama should do.

  • First, the president should appoint within a hundred days after inauguration a prestigious but politically shrewd special envoy for Arab-Israeli affairs. This will provide the proper appearances, remove the portfolio from his desk (at least for a while), and mute the chorus of complaints from all sides (at least to some extent). There is not much more he could do anyway, for it will take at least that long for Obama to get his policy team nominated, approved, sworn in, and at their desks working.
  • Second, as soon as is practical, the president should mount a vigorous but private effort regarding regional perceptions of the September 11 attacks--namely, he should press the leaders of all Muslim-majority countries with which we have decent relations to level with their people about what actually happened. This is not because doing so would turn the tide of opinion in publics awash in conspiracy theories.3 But a goodfaith effort is the least these leaders could offer. It might make some short-term difference, and it is certainly a worthy long-term goal. Until these and other conspiracy theories are marginalized, the United States will be unable to have the kinds of relationships it really desires with Middle Eastern societies-- relationships of effective cooperation built on genuine mutual respect and trust.
  • ■■Third, the president should try to persuade America's Arab friends that aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) has to be a cooperative endeavor. It is unacceptable that the United States and European Union provide the bulk of budgetary assistance for the struggling PA while wealthy Arab states keep their own wallets tightly closed (even as they lecture others about the plight of the Palestinians).
  • ■■ Fourth, Palestinian governance reform and development should also be recast as a cooperative effort requiring Arab participation. A two-state solution is neither viable nor desirable if the Palestinian state is born fated to fail. The Obama administration should therefore develop governance aid triads (GATs) to help the PA come of age in terms of administrative competence. The managing secretariat for the GAT effort should be composed of the United States, the EU, and the Arab League. (Any Israeli input into the process would come via Washington.) These parties should devise functional assistance teams composed of one European and one Arab country to help the PA develop its competencies. The teams would work onsite in the West Bank and, hopefully, Gaza. For example, regarding Palestinian police training, a team from Italy and Morocco could be assembled; for health and medical affairs, a team from the Netherlands and Jordan; for sports and recreation, a team from Tunisia and Spain; for tax and budgetary assistance, a team from the United Arab Emirates and Denmark; for intelligence, a team from Egypt and Germany; for communications infrastructure, a team from Kuwait and Finland; for energy issues and electrical utilities, a team from France and Saudi Arabia; and so on.

Many side benefits could flow from such an effort, but the key purpose would be to engage other countries in the future of a sustainable two-state solution.

Although raising the competency level of Palestinian governance would not be formally tied to progress in political negotiations with Israel, it should be clear to everyone, however, that the ultimate purpose of the exercise is to backstop those negotiations against the day when significant progress becomes possible.

By improving the Palestinian quality of life though better governance, the GAT project should burnish the PA's credentials and help marginalize those Palestinian forces philosophically opposed to peace and conciliation with Israel. This would help enable the next generation of Palestinian leaders to come of age in a context supportive of peace and progress--one that rewards service and merit on behalf of the Palestinian people and punishes self-aggrandizement, corruption, extremism, and violence.

The GAT initiative makes sense as part of a larger policy objective. The Arab-Israeli situation is usually described as a "dispute" or a "conflict," and sometimes as a "crisis." These descriptors are not wrong, but it is more useful to see the problem as a "condition"--a chronic fact of life that will not be gone soon. The key to reducing the virulence and spillover effects of the Arab-Israeli condition--and, ultimately, to resolving it--is the implicit removal of elements of the effective sovereignty of both sides and their being vested in

3. See Michael Slackman, "9/11 Rumors That Become Conventional Wisdom," New York Times, September 8, 2008.

other actors with vital interests in containing, managing, and ultimately eliminating the condition.

On the Israeli side, those other actors include the United States in particular, but also potentially the European Union, which might eventually provide extra security guarantees, monitors, and similar incentives for territorial concessions. On the Palestinian side, it consists mainly of the Arab states. Although the time is long past when the Arab states could effectively contain Palestinian nationalism (as it was from 1949 to 1967), the Palestinian portfolio can and should be kept partially in check by the cooperative efforts of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps other Arab states that have a stake in regional peace and stability. The sovereign symbols of an eventual Palestinian state should in no way be compromised--the flag, the United Nations seat, membership in other international and regional organizations. But the substance of Palestinian sovereignty, particularly the ambit of its military and foreign policy decisions, must be cocooned within the Arab state system at least until such time as it is clear that a Palestinian state would neither violate the agreed conditions of its birth nor fail terminally under its own governance.

Here, too, appearances and reality will diverge, as the United States attempts to apply triage to the Arab- Israeli conflict until the day when real healing becomes possible. It is not necessarily hypocritical, however, to say one thing about a Palestinian state and its sovereign rights and do another. The proper term is not hypocrisy but diplomacy--the art of the merely possible when nothing better is available.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Six Qassam Rockets fired by Palestinians at Negev

Last update - 18:42 23/12/2008       
Six Qassams slam into Negev, as Egypt vows push for new truce
By Haaretz Service
Six Qassam rockets slammed into the western Negev on Tuesday, ending Monday's brief respite of a significant drop in cross-border attacks from Gaza.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that Egypt would push for a renewal of the cease-fire agreement between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which came to an end last Friday.
Abbas' announcement came following talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had mediated the recently collapsed six-month truce.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to visit Cairo Thursday for talks with Mubarak about a new truce.
Palestinian armed factions in Gaza had said Monday they were observing a 24-hour halt to rocket fire against Israel at the request of Egyptian mediators.
Despite the announcement, Gaza militants fired two Qassam rockets and one mortar round into the Negev over the course of the day.

The rockets fired Tuesday exploded in the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev regions, causing neither casualties nor property damage.
Earlier Tuesday, Israel Radio quoted an Islamic Jihad official as saying the Palestinian militant group had only agreed to the respite to allow the entry of humanitarian goods into Gaza, and would shortly renew rocket fire against Israel.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, meanwhile, said Tuesday that Hamas and other Gaza factions were now prepared to study offers to renew the accord.
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, has said that his Palestinian militant group is willing to renew the recently ended truce in Gaza with Israel.
Zahar made the comments in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that was published on Tuesday. He told the paper that Hamas would agree to renew the cease-fire under its previous conditions.
He also said Hamas will evaluate the current situation in light of the six-month truce having ended last week. Zahar added that if there are positive responses within the organization to the proposal of returning to the framework of previous truce, Hamas will advance it.
On Monday, Zahar told Israel's Channel 10 TV that the truce could be restored.
"The price is the lives of the Palestinian people," he said.
Zahar demanded regular food and electricity supplies from Israel along with stopping Israeli military actions in the West Bank as well as Gaza.
Israel did not agree to halt operations in the West Bank under the truce that expired Friday, but Zahar's interview on an Israeli TV channel indicated that Hamas is interested in negotiating another cease-fire.

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$3 Billion to Palestinians in 2008 : Where did it all go?

Actually, about half the money, and not "some" gets to Gaza, and it is used to finance the rocket attacks on Israel.
Last update - 18:46 23/12/2008       
French envoy: Palestinians given $3b in foreign aid in 2008
By The Associated Press
A French diplomat said Tuesday that the Palestinians have received $3 billion in foreign aid in 2008.
Alain Remy, the French consul general in Jerusalem, said that $1.8 billion went for the budget of the Palestinian Authority. Another $700 million went to specific programs. Finally, $500 million went to humanitarian assistance.
At a pledging conference in Paris a year ago, donor countries promised to
contribute $7.7 billion through 2010. The money is meant to shore up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his peace efforts with Israel.
Some of the money reaches Hamas-ruled Gaza as humanitarian assistance and salaries for Abbas loyalists,

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British pro-Palestinian NGOs abuse Christmans for anti-Israel attacks

"Hijacked by Hatred": British NGOs Use Christmas for anti-Israel Attacks
NGO Monitor
December 23, 2008

Through the use of holiday and religious symbols, NGOs such as War on Want, Amos Trust, and Pax Christi are manipulating Christmas to advance a political agenda, and in some cases, may be promoting antisemitic canards.

NGOs organized an event entitled, "Bethlehem Now: Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols for Palestine," involving "traditional carols with untraditional lyrics, interspersed with poetry and prose readings, to highlight current reality in the Holy Land." The tendentious lyrics and themes of the event led to strong condemnations from Christian and Jewish community leaders.

War on Want is promoting an "Alternative Gift" of donations to Stop the Wall (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Coalition - PGAAWC).  PGAAWC focuses on "stopping and dismantling the Apartheid Wall" and supporting the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

War on Want and Amos Trust are marketing Christmas cards depicting the security barrier and conflating Jesus with the Palestinians.   
On December 2, 2008, Christian Aid hosted a fundraiser called "From Bethlehem to Bristol." While the fundraiser appears to be a departure from the explicit and extreme demonization of Christian Aid's previous campaigns, it still provided a one-sided perspective on the conflict.


In advance of Christmas 2008, several British NGOs have returned to previous theological offensives against Israel by combining emphasis on Bethlehem, stories of Palestinian suffering, and false allegations of Israeli cruelty. Through Christmas cards, carols, and charity fundraising, War on Want, Amos Trust, Pax Christi and others condemn Israel's security barrier and erase the Palestinian terror campaign that necessitates it.  As in previous years when NGOs used Underground  station advertisements and  greeting cards, these campaigns capitalize on holiday sentiment and Christian religious symbols to declare that "the wall must fall" and present  a biased view of the conflict. 

Christmas Cards: War on Want and Amos Trust

War on Want and Amos Trust are marketing Christmas cards depicting the security barrier and conflating Jesus with the Palestinians -- a familiar theme among UK NGOs. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is selling similar items to protest the "illegal structure" of the "apartheid wall," thereby also appealing to religious prejudices.

A War on Want card shows Mary and Joseph encountering a Bethlehem that is "effectively sealed off from the outside world by Israel's Separation Wall" and "Mary and Joseph being frisked on their way to find an inn for the night." This is reminiscent of another card from previous years, featuring "the three wise men trying to get to Bethlehem but being forced to dig underneath Israel's separation wall."
Similarly, Amos Trust advertises cards that portray Santa Claus walking along the security barrier with a bag of gifts, ringing a bell.  The inside text ends, "as we celebrate the child born in Bethlehem - let us not forget God's children living in Bethlehem today."
Additionally, as in previous years, Amos Trust offers the "Wall Nativity," which comes with a prayer guide  and "complete with separation wall [and] depicts the current situation in Bethlehem."  This project has been criticized for its anti-Semitic undertones.

Anti-Israel Lyrics in Christmas Carols

On November 26, 2008 a fringe group calling itself Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods organized an event entitled, "Bethlehem Now: Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols for Palestine," involving "traditional carols with untraditional lyrics, interspersed with poetry and prose readings, to highlight current reality in the Holy Land." The event was held at the prominent Anglican church St James, Piccadilly, and proceeds supposedly went to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Open Bethlehem. While MAP is funded to provide medical aid to Palestinians, many of its activities focus on political campaigning, including accusations that the Israeli government is responsible for "harsh (and illegal) measures of collective punishment." And Open Bethlehem, a Trocaire-funded NGO, blames the "Israeli-built wall" for "an unprecedented wave of emigration, particularly among the city's Christians," ignoring the targeting of Christians by Muslim extremists and Palestinian terror.

Lyrics for the "Twelve Days of Christmas" include: "Twelve assassinations, Eleven homes demolished, Ten wells obstructed, Nine sniper towers…And an uprooted olive tree." "Once in Royal David's City" was changed to "Once in royal David's city stood a big apartheid wall..."
Numerous NGOs participated in the event.  War on Want was an official supporter and Bruce Kent, vice president of Pax Christi was a special guest with a reading role. After the event he said, "The carols pointed out exactly what is going on in occupied Palestine today. I am delighted they have had the publicity that this has generated. Anyone who speaks against Zionist policies is labeled anti-Semitic." Also in attendance was Baroness Jenny Tonge, former trustee of Christian Aid.  The composers drew inspiration from Garth Hewitt, founder of the Amos Trust, who also wrote some of the alternative lyrics.
Christian and Jewish community leaders strongly condemned the event.  Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Ron Proser, said "it was appalling to see a church allow one of its most endearing seasonal traditions to be hijacked by hatred." 
Alternative Christmas Campaigns
War on Want and Pax Christi are also endorsing politicized Christmas campaigns.  War on Want is promoting an "Alternative Gift" to "promote peace in Palestine": a donation of £10 to Stop the Wall (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Coalition - PGAAWC) to fund one-day's worth of campaigning materials for this radical anti-Israel NGO.  PGAAWC focuses on "stopping and dismantling the Apartheid Wall" and supporting the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. It is also a signatory of the Palestinian Civil Society position paper on the Durban Review Conference, which labels Israel a "racist" and "apartheid" state. (PGAAWC does not reveal its donors.) War on Want's description of the barrier is again highly prejudicial and ignores Palestinian terrorism. 

Pax Christi promotes a list of ideas for Advent and Christmas 2008 to "raise awareness of how the people of Bethlehem are living now."  The NGO proposes "build[ing] a Wall around or through [the "Christmas"] crib and discuss who would be inside or outside."  Pax Christi also recommends the "Pax Christi 'Bethlehem Story' powerpoint for children to show Bethlehem as a living place today."  Ignoring intra-Palestinian violence and the targeting of Christians by Islamic extremists, the presentation attributes the declining percentage of Christians living in Bethlehem to "the government of Israel … buil[ding] this large wall around the town of Bethlehem." Replete with images of the "large wall," the presentation dismisses Israeli security concerns -- "they think the wall will keep them safe" -- and asks the children to "imagine Mary and Joseph trying to get through the wall to Bethlehem today."

Christian Aid's Fundraiser for Bethlehem

Before Christmas 2004, Christian Aid initiated a highly emotive and tendentious "Child of Bethlehem" campaign: posters featuring a young Palestinian girl who had been hit in the eye by Israeli shrapnel and her bloodied doll with "matching" wounds. The campaign generated controversy in England, and led to conciliatory meetings with leaders of the British Jewish community.

On December 2, 2008, Christian Aid hosted a fundraiser called "From Bethlehem to Bristol." The keynote speaker was Nader Abu Amsha, director of the YMCA in Shepherd's Field (Beit Sahour) near Bethlehem. In an interview given on the day of the event, Abu Amsha accused Israel of "committing crimes...against humanity" and dismissed Israel's security concerns. Proceeds from the event went to "support the work of Christian Aid partner organizations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories," reportedly the YMCA. However, Christian Aid's other regional partners include some of the most radical NGOs involved in the conflict -- Sabeel, ICAHD, and the Alternative Information Center.

While the fundraiser appears to be a departure from the explicit and extreme demonization of Christian Aid's previous campaigns, it still provided a one-sided perspective on the conflict. In a news report about the event, a Christian Aid representative stated: "In the run up to Christmas and the season of goodwill, we want to raise awareness of the fact that all should have access to land, health and education." As NGO Monitor has demonstrated, Christian Aid engages in a highly politicized approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its reports disproportionately focus on alleged Israeli "violations."
During the holiday season, some British-Christian NGOs claim to emphasize the "current reality in the Holy Land," yet they represent only one side of that reality and contribute to the conflict. Their linking of the suffering of Palestinian Christians with that of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, recalls centuries of antisemitism and blood libels against the Jewish people.   Through the use of holiday and religious symbols, these NGOs are manipulating Christmas to advance a political agenda, and in some cases, may be promoting antisemitic canards. 

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Iran, Venezuala cooperate to flout UN resolution

Iran is assembling computers and missiles in Syria. This cannot be good news, but it is hardly surprising. Given the lackadaisacal interest in Iran sanctions by most of the world, we cannot really blame Venezuela for evading them. The computers are transported in Venezuelan aircraft, but Venezuela does not manufacture computers. Iran could not manufacture computers or missile parts without outside cooperation as well. The implication is obvious.
Those who hoist the flag of "international legitimacy" at every opportunity should observe how the U.N. is being openly flouted, and what is being done about it.

Iran using Venezuela ties to duck UN sanctions: report

Citing US and other Western intelligence agencies, La Stampa said Iran is using aircraft from Venezuelan airline Conviasa to transport computers and engine components to Syria for use in missiles.

The material comes from Iranian industrial group Shahid Bagheri, listed in the annex of UN Security Council Resolution 1737, adopted in December 2006, for involvement in Iran's ballistic missile programme.

The resolution instructed all nations to "prevent the supply, sale or transfer" of all material or technology that could be used for Iran's nuclear enrichment programme and the development of weapons to carry nuclear warheads.

Syria is a close ally of Iran in the Middle East, with the two nations having signed a military cooperation pact in June 2006.

In return for providing aircraft, Iran has made available to Caracas members of its Revolution Guards and the elite Al-Quds unit to train and reinforce the Venezuelan police and secret services, La Stampa reported.

Iran denies Western and Israeli suspicions that it is developing nuclear weapons, asserting that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. It nevertheless defies a UN demand to halt uranium enrichment.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez -- who share deep hostility towards the United States and the outgoing Bush administration -- have signed several agreements on economic cooperation.

Chavez has also voiced support for Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,280 miles), capable of hitting Israel as well as US military bases in the Middle East.

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Meet the guys from Hamas

Does this mean Mr. Ja'abri needs life insurance? Or is Gilad Shalit sufficient life insurance ?

Five Brigades, fully manned, would correspond to about 15,000 men approximately - and that is the estimate given below. It is a formidable military establishment if it exists but not a real threat to Israel, considering their scale of armament. It won't get easier in a year.

Meet the Hamas military leadership

Dec. 22, 2008

Israel has Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as its chief of staff. Hamas has Ahmed Ja'abri.

Ja'abri is in his late 40s and has been in Israel's sights for a number of years. In 2004, Israel Air Force jets fired several missiles at his home in the Sajiya neighborhood of Gaza City. Ja'abri escaped the assassination attempt with moderate wounds. Five others were killed.

Since then, he has slowly climbed the Hamas ranks and today is believed to be the group's "chief of staff," replacing arch-terrorist Muhammad Deif, who was seriously wounded by an Israeli air strike in July 2006 and whose role in the organization today is unclear.

Ja'abri is credited with the current Hamas build-up and is believed to be far more extreme than its political echelon.

Today, the group has five brigades corresponding to five sections of the Gaza Strip - North, Center, Gaza City, and two brigades in the South. Each brigade has a commander and several battalions. Alongside the battalions there are special forces - units with expertise in rocket fire, mortar attacks, roadside bombs and commando operations.

In Gaza, the IDF would face an army of close to 20,000 armed men, among them at least 15,000 Hamas operatives. The rest are from Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Ja'abri is the commander of Gaza City. Ahmed Andour is in charge in the North. Iman Nufal, the commander of central Gaza, is in Egyptian custody after he was arrested last year when he entered Sinai. The two brigades in the South - one in Khan Yunis and one in Rafah, are led by Mahmoud Sanour and Ra'ad Alatour.

Andour is believed to be Ja'abri's right-hand man. He was reportedly imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority for five years in the mid 1990s. Together with Ja'abri, Andour was behind the attacks against Fatah militiamen in the summer of 2007 that led to Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip. Ja'abri and Andour are believed to have masterminded the June 2006 kidnapping of Gilad Schalit.

Nufal was one of the organizers of the January 2008 breaching of the border wall between Gaza and Sinai, which is why Egypt continues to keep him in prison.

In July, Hamas revealed that a group of Palestinians had been arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Rafah commander Alatour. Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam revealed in an interview to Al-Hayat that the plot was exposed and thwarted by Hamas security forces.

Sanour, the commander in Khan Yunis, is believed by Israel to have been responsible for hundreds of terror attacks in recent years, most prominently the March 2002 infiltration of a pre-military academy in the Gush Katif settlement of Atzmona in which five Israeli students were killed.

IDF officers like to say that Israel can, without a doubt, conquer the entire Gaza Strip within days. The difficult part is holding on to the conquered territory against Hamas's guerrilla style of warfare.

Both Israel and Hamas have used the past six months of the cease-fire to build up their military capabilities and for extensive training. The Golani Infantry Brigade, which is supposed to deploy on the Gaza front in the coming weeks, as an example, just completed four months of intensive training in the South and the North ahead of potential conflicts with Hamas, Syria and Hizbullah.

Conquering the Gaza Strip would involve several brigades and all branches of the IDF - the air force, Artillery Corps, Armored Corps and, of course, infantry.

Since the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas has been involved in one of the most intensive military buildups - for a terrorist group - in modern history. It, everyone knows, is no longer a small terrorist group just capable of building explosive belts for suicide bombings.

While Hamas used the past six months of a "cease-fire" to train its forces, it also took advantage of the suspension in IDF operations to fortify its military posts in the Gaza Strip. According to one high-ranking security official, Hamas has dug dozens of kilometers of tunnel systems throughout Gaza that will be used by fighters to move from one place to another undetected.

"Just like the Vietcong," the official noted.

Hamas has also dug foxholes throughout the Strip for anti-tank missile units as well as for massive bombs that have been placed on the main roads into Gaza.

"Hamas has learned a lot from Hizbullah and has adopted many of the Lebanese group's tactics that were used successfully against the IDF in the Second Lebanon War," one official said.

An indication of Hamas's intensive training regimen has been the series of "work accidents" in Gaza throughout the cease-fire. On July 8, for example, two Hamas operatives were killed by an explosion in a training camp in Khan Yunis.

Another explosion took place on July 30. also in the Khan Yunis area. Six operatives were wounded.

The IDF believes that in both cases, the terrorists were trying to make large bombs or practicing with new explosives and rockets.


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Zionism and Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Zionist holiday. It is not just Zionist in content. It is Zionist because it had been suprressed by traditional Jewish religious culture, even before the disastrous revolt of Bar Kochba. Reliance on arms and self help rather than prayer was bad for the priestly class even when the temple stood. Yosef Begun seems to be unaware of this contradiction, because Orthodox Judaism has long since co-opted Hanukka, the miracle content seems to rise each year at the expense of the actual historical message. It is no wonder that Hanukkah is downgraded as it becomes a holiday of anti-Zionist Haredim.

Home-made miracles of Hanukka

Dec. 22, 2008

I remember well my first Hanukka in Israel 20 years ago. In Jerusalem's Zion Square, hundreds gathered for the kindling of the first light of the holiday. A grand 10-meter-high Hanukka menora was erected. Hanukka, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in honor of the miracle of the heroic Maccabees' victory of the few and the weak over the strong and the many, which saved our people. The Jewish victory 22 centuries ago is paralleled by the IDF victories of our time.

By the end of the 1980s, another miracle was occurring: the massive Russian aliya had just begun. The crowd of hundreds of people in Zion Square was united in a spirit of joy and excitement. At the moment that I lit the first Hanukka light, the crowd in the square shouted exuberantly. Just a year before, in 1987, I had been freed from the Gulag.

The Pessah Haggada says: "In every generation there are those who rise up to kill us." The Communist "new pharaoh" thought he was going to realize his plan for a new "final solution": all institutions of Jewish education had been destroyed and we were deprived of any access to our national culture, including language and history. Jews in the USSR had been doomed to disappear just as the "ten lost tribes" had.

But we began to resist. At first, it was just lone individuals; but after the 1967 Six Day War, the biblical "Let my people go!" became the slogan of the Russian exodus. Hundreds of refuseniks began to undertake widespread actions: public demonstrations, hunger strikes, letters of protest to the outside world. The rescue of millions of Russian-speaking Jews from complete annihilation by spiritual genocide was another miracle in the annals of Jewish history.

It's hard to believe that the Soviets were incapable of preventing these Zionist actions. But among the miracles of that time could be counted the solidarity of Jews worldwide in support of their brothers and sisters in the USSR - from New York students to Tel Aviv professors, from Reform Jews of Arizona to ultra-Orthodox of Antwerp. Our protests also sparked concern from non-Jewish sources. True Christians from the Bible-believers to human rights champions answered God's call and also cried out, "Let His People Go."

I had an opportunity see this united struggle on both sides of the Iron Curtain. After I made aliya in 1988, I had a meeting with president Ronald Reagan, who handed me a metallic bracelets that bore my name. He told me, "I received this bracelet from one of America's Jewish leaders for a special reason - that I not forget the plight of Soviet Jews. It was on my coffee table while you were in prison." Similar symbols of solidarity had been worn by Jews everywhere. This massive support became the second frontier in our fight for freedom, enabling us to stand up against a mighty totalitarian regime.

The greatness of Hanukka had resulted from many "small" miracles. So, too, the miracle of the modern Russian exodus resulted from many "small" miracles of the awakening of Jewish identity in the midst of totalitarian communist imperium. As with thousands, so it happened with me. I wanted to know about my people and its culture, but that was impossible in a country where Jews were denied any access to their national education. But "he who seeks will find," and I was lucky to meet an elderly man, a former yeshiva student from the days of Czarist Russia, who began to teach me Hebrew and Jewish culture. This secret "Jewish education" transformed my essence as a "Soviet Jew," assimilated and ashamed of the Jewish notation on his ID card.

Later, I met others who had found their way back to our people through personal search. But Jews of this kind were a drop in the ocean, while millions were the victims of national degradation. By the 1970s, a group of "refuseniks" dedicated themselves to the national survival of Soviet Jewry. The members of this Jewish cultural movement disseminated Jewish knowledge by many means: teaching Hebrew and Jewish history, studying religion and tradition. Jewish holidays were an important part of the movement's activities.

THE KGB understood the danger to its imperial regime in the growing Jewish self-awareness. My 1972 Hanukka celebration, therefore, was in prison. We were eight Jews in a dark and gloomy cell of a large Moscow prison, where we were forced to spend 15 days after a public hunger strike. We put ourselves in a good mood by talking about the heroes of our history and the miracles of Hanukka. The absence of festive food was not so important as that of a menora, for what is Hanukka without light? And, even there in prison, a small miracle happened: One of us called a doctor on the pretext of being in pain and asked for some hemorrhoid candles. He got them. All the rest was just a matter of technique. Soon the light of Hanukka, the symbol of freedom, was glowing on our prison table.

I had the chance for another uncommon Hanukka celebration in 1977. I had been arrested for "parasitism," but the real reason was the state's rejection of my right to give private Hebrew lessons. They sent me to internal exile for two years in a remote area of Siberia. There were no other Jews in the small mining town where I was forced to live. When Hanukka came, I prepared a primitive hanukkia - a piece of wood with eight nails to hold the candles. When I lit the first candle of the holiday, I surmised that it was the most northeastern Hanukka light in the world. Contemplating our miraculous struggle for existence in ancient and modern times, I couldn't but think that this little flame was uniting me with all the Jews of the world, no longer alone in that dark, remote part of the world.

TWENTY YEARS have passed since the Hanukka lighting in Zion Square in 1988. Last year, the same great menora was erected in the center of Jerusalem. But it was hard not to notice that, in contrast to the excited crowd that had been there 20 years before, now the square was empty. When the first candle was lit, only a small group of haredim celebrated with singing and dancing. The next day, when I opened a major Israeli daily, and there was nothing about Hanukka on its front pages.

Only one small episode, one might say. But doesn't it mark an Israel society that has become less Zionist - even post-Zionist? This is a time of crisis - moral and spiritual, as well as political (not to mention financial).

What is Hanukka? This question was asked even in Talmudic times. For me, the answer lies in Jewish history itself: Hanukka is both the fight and the victory. We can see it through all the centuries and epochs: from the Egyptian Exodus of 18 centuries BCE through the Russian exodus of our 20th century; from the foundation of the Jewish state by King David in the 10th century BCE through David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of our modern state.

The miracle of Hanukka is a result of our faith in God and His Torah, as well as our own struggle. Our history knows tragedies and defeats, but each time we were born anew. "The few and the weak," we have prevailed not only by our weapons but more often by patience and wisdom.

For the 4,000 years of our history, we have been accompanied by existential miracles. Always a Maccabeus appeared to bear another miracle of Jewish victory. We need to learn from our history and seek leaders as impressive as their predecessors.

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Returning Israelis in focus

In all, this program might bring back about 25,000 Israelis. But there are perhaps 300,000 to 800,000 Israelis or ex-Israelis of various descriptions living abroad, depending on what might be considered an Israeli.  It is not unimaginable that 8,000 a year would return indefinitely, if the program were continued, and if more energetic and focused efforts were made to return them.

An even better idea, is improving Israeli conditions so people will not leave in the first place!

Israel focuses on yordim

Dec. 21, 2008

Aliya in 2008 dropped by some 20 percent, but the number of returning expats increased by almost 100%, according to figures released by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry over the weekend.

During the past year, some 16,000 new olim made their home in Israel, a drop of some 4,000 from the ministry's count of 20,000 in 2007. It is even a steep drop from the most conservative count for 2007 aliya - 18,219 - made by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Meanwhile, nearly 8,800 Israeli expats returned home, a jump of 94% from 2007's 4,535.

These figures reflect a dramatic shift among government bureaucrats away from a focus on aliya, which in 2007 hit its lowest point in 19 years, and toward a new outreach to attract "yordim" - a pejorative term for expats that is quickly losing its sting.

According to ministry figures, Israeli expats are a desirable demographic. Of some 14,000 expats who returned to Israel between 2004 and 2007, 30% were academics, scientists, researchers, engineers or technicians, 40% had academic degrees and 54% were between the ages of 20 and 44.

In other words, it is a demographic that tends to be skilled, educated and of working age.

An Absorption Ministry study reported Sunday found that returning expats repay their absorption package to the economy within 18 months, and on average are 30% more productive than the average citizen.

This economic reality inspired a new program in late 2007 through the ministry and the Tax Authority, offering unprecedented incentives to returning Israelis. Titled "Returning Home on Israel's 60th," the program is the ministry's flagship project, and the financial benefits it offers are almost on par with those given to new immigrants.

These include a 10-year grace period during which overseas income is untaxable, a government subsidy covering some of the National Insurance penalty required to rejoin the national health care system, help in finding employment, and special benefits to attract returning researchers and scientists.

According to Immigrant Absorption Ministry spokeswoman Meital Noy, the 2008 figures show that the incentives program, made even more desirable by a slowing global economy, has been a dramatic success. More than half of the 2008 returnees - 4,773 to be exact - came from the United States and Canada, she noted.

Indeed, Immigrant Absorption Minister Eli Aflalo noted that much of the credit belonged to the world financial crisis, which he said was "creating a window of opportunity we should not miss." He called on "all Jews and Israelis around the world to move to Israel and benefit from the financial assistance we're offering to help them settle in the country."

Ministry officials are predicting a further jump to 12,000 returning expats in 2009. The incentives program is slated to end at the end of that year.

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The anti-Semitism in Spain is mainly a big pain

Denis MacShane has been a fearless fighter on the side of the good guys and showed courage and leadership in publicizing the findings of the British Parliament's shocking study on anti-Semitism. When he speaks, we hope everyone will listen. This is not "legitimate criticism of Israel." It hasn't really got anything much to do with Israel in fact.
But we must ask ourselves, why Jews return to Poland and Germany, or stay there, and what they expect to find there, if not anti-Semitism?

In Spain, unfavorable views of Jews climbed from 21 percent in 2005 to nearly one in two this year.

Denis MacShane
From the magazine issue dated Dec 15, 2008

As Europe faces up to its old demons of financial breakdown and job losses, a wind from the past is blowing through the continent. The politics of moderate center-right and left-liberal democracy that took power after 1945 are giving way to a new old populism. The extravagant rhetoric of the demagogic left and right is gaining ground, and the most obvious manifestation is the return of anti-Semitism as an organizing ideology.

Consider the numbers: according to a recent Pew survey, the percentage of Germans who hold unfavorable views of Jews has climbed from 20 percent in 2004 to 25 percent today. In France, which has the largest number of Jews of any European nation, 20 percent of people view Jews unfavorably—up from 11 percent four years ago. In Spain, the figures are even more striking: negative views of Jews climbed from 21 percent in 2005 to nearly one in two this year. In Britain, where the numbers have remained around 9 percent for some time, anecdotal evidence of increased animosity abounds: youngsters returning from the Jewish Free School in middle-class North London are now frightened to go home on public buses on account of anti-Jewish attacks. Their parents hire private buses, as the London police seem unable to staunch anti-Semitic assaults on their children. In Manchester, a Jewish cemetery had to have a Nazi swastika hurriedly cleaned off its walls before a VIP party arrived.

Anti-Semitism also lies at the heart of the ideology of the British National Party, the fastest-growing political party in Britain. Already, the extreme rightist party has won a seat on the London Assembly, and in local elections this year the BNP doubled its number of local councilors. The party now avoids public statements about Jews and even tries to keep its Islamophobia under control. Yet the only serious publications by BNP leader Nick Griffin are in the mainstream of traditional anti-Semitic tropes. In his short book "Who are the Mindbenders?" Griffin listed British Jews who he said were the secret controllers of the British media, accused Jewish immigrants of changing their names to disguise their origins and called the facts of the Holocaust gas chambers "unscientific nonsense."

Alongside the Jew-hating BNP are Britain's anti-Semitic Islamist ideologues. Gordon Brown—Europe's strongest supporter of Israel—and his Labour government have done more than any other to promote British Muslims as government ministers, as M.P.s and peers, and Downing Street celebrates Muslim festivals and achievements in a manner that would amaze previous occupants of the building. Meantime, Britain, as much under Labour as under Conservative governments, has tolerated the growth of fundamentalist Islamism rooted in classic texts denouncing Jews. It took the London tube bombings of July 2005 to lift the veil off the eyes of a political establishment that had turned away from the growth of ideological extremism with its anti-Semitic focus.

The Pew survey on public opinion shows a particularly troubling trend in Spain—a country where all Jews were expelled in 1492 and synagogues are historic monuments. The massive influx of immigrant workers from North Africa, combined with the anti-Israel language of Spain's liberal-left intellectual and media elites, may explain the puzzle of anti-Semitism in a nation with few Jews. Poland under communist rule sanctioned anti-Semitic politics even after most Polish Jews had been exterminated. Spain's indulgence of Islamism may be creating the same phenomenon of anti-Jewish feelings in a country without Jews.

Looking east, it was staggering—but perhaps should not have been surprising—to see the faces of this new populism earlier this year, when thousands of Austrians turned out for the funeral of Jörg Haider, the right-wing extremist who presented himself as an Austrian patriot but hardly bothered to hide his anti-Jewish views. "There is no greater insult to a Germanic politician than to be accused of having Jewish blood," Haider proclaimed. Similarly, anti-Jewish politics resonate in Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. All three countries sent politicians to the European Parliament to set up a far-right grouping alongside anti-Jewish rightists from France and Italy. In Poland, the percentage of those with unfavorable opinions about Jews is up from 27 percent in 2004 to 36 percent today, and throughout this part of Europe the target is now Israel and its support in America, and the preferred vocabulary is of "Zionists" and the "lobby" rather than "Jews" or "conspiracy." It blends with a wider xenophobia.

As jobs are lost and welfare becomes meaner and leaner, the politics of blaming the outsider can only grow. The hard-won European politics of breaking down frontiers and trying to legislate for tolerance will get harder to defend, still less to promote. European populism and the anti-EU nationalism of both the right and the left is now the politics to watch. As America celebrates its first nonwhite president and the hope of a new politics, Europe may be beginning to revisit its past.

MacShane is a Labour M.P. and was Britain's Europe minister. His book "Globalising Hatred: the New Antisemitism" has just been published.


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Iran's Plans - Judge for yourself

According to Ayatollah Rafsanjani:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a true follower of Islam and the Holy Quran and therefore is not in favor of war and conflict anywhere in the world, Rafsanjani added.

Rejecting the idea that Iran is determined to physically transfer its Islamic Revolution to other parts of the world, he stressed that the idea means that the way of thinking of the Islamic Revolution that is its anti-arrogance approach should be transferred to other countries.
According to Grand Ayatollah and Marj al Taqlid Rohollah Khomeini:
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.

But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world ... Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.

Islam says: kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]?

Islam say: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?

Islam says: kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy?

Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors!

There are hundreds of other ayat [Qur'anic verses] and ahadith urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.(Qom 1986. (Originally published in Qom in 1942 and reprinted in Teheran in 1980 and 1983). Translated  by Iranian journalist and Khomeini critic Amir Taheri, from: Holy Terror, London 1987, p.226-7.] )

Online Source  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

MPAC spokesman: Any Muslim killed fighting Israel goes to paradise

Does it need any comment?  
The story by Damian Thompson:
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) is one of the media's favourite Muslim organisations - radical and outspoken but not extremist, we're led to believe. One of its spokesmen, Asghar Bukhari, is a particular favourite of the BBC, whose Asian Network describes how he has "set up Media response workshops to educate and engage Muslims about dealing with the media" .

In one recent thread, Bukhari says: "Muslims who fight against the occupation of their lands are 'Mujahadeen' and are blessed by Allah. And any Muslim who fights and dies against Israel and dies is a martyr and will be granted paradise ... There is no greater oppressor on this earth than the Zionists, who murder little children for sport."

Well, Bukhari didn't evade the question. He confirmed that the Facebook discussion was authentic, and said: "I stand by that [his comments], and I think any Muslim in the world stands by that ... if you think I'm going to tap dance for you and say 'These Muslims are really bad and should sort their own house out', then I'm not going to."

Indeed, he added, if that was my view then I could "p--- off".

Hmm. Is that the technique that Bukhari recommends in his media workshops? He also said that he was prepared to repeat his Facebook comments to any TV station that wanted to interview him. But, you know, I'm not so sure that the references to paradise for anti-Israel "fighters" and the description of Zionists as casual child-killers were intended for public consumption. Which is why he lost his cool when I rang. Asghar, mate, let me give you a media tip: Facebook rants aren't private.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jews belong without believing

A new study seems to show that Jews define themselves by community, just as I had written elsewhere. They belong to Jewish religious institutions even if they do not believe in god, because that is the only way to be Jewish.
I would think there is an opportunity here for non-religious Jewish organizations, but somehow, it is not happening it seems. It would seem to point out an urgent need for SECULAR Hebrew education and Jewish community institutions.
By Leon Cohen
of The Chronicle staff
"I am an out-and-out atheist. There's no doubt about that," said Madisonian Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, during an interview with The Chronicle this past autumn.
Nevertheless, he also said, his family belonged for many years to Madison's Reform synagogue, Temple Beth El; and his three children received a Jewish education and had b'nai mitzvah ceremonies there.
This situation seems to be contradictory or paradoxical; but many other American Jews apparently live in similar ways.
Or so contends a recent publication of the Florence G. Heller-JCC Association Research Center that is being disseminated by the Mandell L. Berman Institute North American Jewish Data Bank of the University of Connecticut.
The study is titled "Belonging Without Believing: Jews and their Distinctive Patterns of Religiosity — and Secularity." (The full text of the report can be seen online at
Its authors — Prof. Steven M. Cohen and Lauren Blitzer — compiled data assembled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
During the past year, the Pew Forum issued parts of its "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey." This was based on data from "an unusually large national sample of 35,000 respondents, including a representative sample of 682 Jews nationwide," according to the JCCA report.
That means, according to the report, "the Pew study represents the first time … that we can compare the religious beliefs and behavior of a large national sample of Jews with thousands of respondents from other religious groups. Most critically, all the respondents were asked the same wide array of questions in the same way at the same time."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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